Mark Reviews Movies


1 ½ Stars (out of 4)

Director: Kirsten Sheridan

Cast: Freddie Highmore, Keri Russell, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Terrence Howard, Robin Williams, William Sadler

MPAA Rating: PG (for some thematic elements, mild violence and language)

Running Time: 1:40

Release Date: 11/21/07

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Review by Mark Dujsik

Saying August Rush is contrived is like saying that, in terms of continents, Asia is pretty big. None of the movie feels natural, and even the few potentially honest parts are loaded with preordained irony and/or necessity. The script by Nick Castle and James V. Hart is a study in formula, each piece existing solely to bring the story to its inevitable end, and excess, complications and subplots weighing down what is basically a simple story. Strange, isn't it, that a movie that's meant to be sweet and heartwarming only brings out the cynic in me?

While taking notes, I added some comments to certain developments. The most prevalent word among them is "oy," but I also sighed to the heavens and wrote "Come on" but with an obscenity written in between. Odd, isn't it, that a movie that's meant to be happy and unassuming had me cursing?  I didn't hate August Rush, but I was pretty annoyed by it—its cloying nature, its whimsical view of fate, its indifference about its characters. That last one is the most irritating, as it means we're supposed to just accept the previous two and care about the movie without having anyone in it about which to care.

Eleven-year-old Evan (Freddie Highmore) has lived in an orphanage his whole life. He stands outside, conducting the "music" of nature, insisting that "music is all around us" but not everyone hears it. He's teased by bullies, who tell him he doesn't have a family (odd insult coming from a group of orphans), but he insists that, yes, he does. He can hear them in the music. His friend empathizes and says that, if their parents won't find them, they should go looking for them. Don't worry about the friend too much; he disappears without further mention after the first reel (ouch). Evan meets with a child services worker named Jeffries (Terrence Howard), who likes his spirit and gives him his number if he needs anything.

Evan decides to follow his friend's advice and leaves the home one night to find his parents. We flash back 11 years prior and see Lyla (Keri Russell), a famous cellist, and Louis (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), a rock musician, performing at their respective concerts. They meet on the roof, spend one night together, and are separated by Lyla's controlling father (William Sadler). She's pregnant, though, quits the cello, gets hit by a car (which Louis intuitively feels), and her father tells her she lost the baby.

The father character is the first of many useless complications the characters have to encounter before they are predictably reunited. Sorry if I ruined it for you, but come on, it's a foregone conclusion how this tripe ends. The father, who forged his daughter's name on the adoption papers, doesn't tell Lyla about her living son until he's on his deathbed. I repeat: Not after she quits the cello (her playing being the only reason he didn't think having the baby was a good idea) and not after years and years of pining away for what could have been, but on his deathbed.

Now she's a music teacher in Chicago, who eventually enlists Jeffries help to find her unknown son, and Louis is a businessman in San Francisco, with a girlfriend who wants to further their relationship while he's still stuck pining over the girl he lost. It should be noted that Keri Russell, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, and Freddie Highmore take all the miles out of the far-away-and-distant look as possible, letting us know that forces beyond their control are at hand while they look off into the distance and wonder what's become of their lives, and not much else.

That's the kind of movie this is—sentimental and fateful and irritating to the last. Evan gets involved with a ring of orphaned or runaway kid musicians led by the controlling, abusive "Wizard" (Robin Williams, slipping out of an Irish brogue into a southern drawl and then into nothing), a character that is the screenplay equivalent of a non sequitur—completely out of place, belonging in an entirely different movie. He takes on the stage (street corner) name "August Rush" and spends six months at Julliard before the school chooses his first composition to be performed at its concert in Central Park (He will conduct, natch). And guess who decides to make her big return to the limelight of the cello for that concert.

Everything fits so conveniently into place by the end, one has to wonder why Louis falls under the impression that Lyla is married after her neighbor wrongly tells him she's on her honeymoon (It doesn't go anywhere), why Evan/August keeps following Wizard's deception that Evan/August is actually his son (He's in Julliard, surrounded by adults who worship him), or why Arthur (Leon Thomas III), another of Wizard's protégé's, becomes jealous of Evan/August (It also doesn't go anywhere).

There are simply too many unnecessary elements at play here, and while the story is meant to be partially a fairy tale (one would hope), its fantasy is too nauseatingly hackneyed to charm. August Rush is a lot like the titular wunderkind's musical piece at the finale: It throws in everything trying desperately to get something.

Copyright © 2007 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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