Rated PG, 104 min. Directed by Kirsten Sheridan. Starring Freddie Highmore, Keri Russell, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Terrence Howard, Robin Williams, William Sadler, Leon G. Thomas III, Jamia Simone Nash.
Not exactly what I'd expected from the director of the woefully underseen Trainspotting-meets-Teletubbies macropiece Disco Pigs. Instead, August Rush is a rather prosaic, oddly anxious, contemporary take on Dickens' Oliver Twist, with Williams – in nasty-man twee mode, a newish one for him – thrown in for bad measure. Surely there is a circle in hell reserved for Patch Adams and his ilk; if so, Williams' Fagin-like character here, while not badly played on the whole, should get time off for good behavior, by which I mean bad. When, at a crucial juncture in this very poorly titled film, he hisses at musical prodigy and soulful orphan August Rush (Highmore), "You're parents aren't coming for you – they're probably dead!" I was aghast and suddenly unsure of who, exactly, I should be rooting for – evil Sith Emperor Williams or twinkle-eyed musician Highmore. Sheridan, the daughter of Irish filmmaker Jim Sheridan (she co-wrote the excellent In America with him) has no such confusion in mind, however. August Rush is, frankly, Fame meets The Fisher King. Highmore's parents are ably essayed by Russell and Rhys Meyers, one a classical cellist destined for greatness with the New York Philharmonic, the other a scruffy Irish ne'er-do-well who fronts a vaguely Poguesy band of rockers (more teeth, less fun). After spending a magical night coupling on a rooftop overlooking Manhattan's Washington Square Arch, they promptly go their separate ways. Neither one realizes that, via a quick (if narratively convenient) switcheroo on the part of Russell's overprotective dad, they've sown the seed of August Rush. An orphan whose parents are unaware even of his existence? Heaven forfend! Thankfully, guided by the spirit of music – not Michael Crawford in this case, alas – Our Brave Lad makes his way to the Big City where he instantly proves adroit at both attracting strange men (Willams, natch) and rockin' like Dokken in Washington Square Park. Once there, he burns like a flame while under the lock and key of Mr. Scary, tithing his collected coinage to the semi-icky man while living in an abandoned theatre filled with other young castaways from society. Will his parents, through a magical, utterly unlikely yet strangely compelling turn of fate, come running once they hear the longing in their little maestro's edgily hip, borderline Ani DiFrancoid slap-strumming? Oh ho! Far be it from me to state the obvious.
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