Warner Bros. // 2007 // 113 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge Ryan Keefer (Retired) // March 15th, 2008
An incredible journey moving at the speed of sound.
Apparently August Rush was supposed to be all kinds of family fun; full of emotionally touching moments and everyone who watched it raved about it. Yet it seemed to get ravaged to some degree both by critics and audiences alike. But yeah, it did earn an Oscar nomination for a song that wound up sounding pretty cool at the awards ceremony, which should count for something, right? Or, more to the point, is August Rush as bad as some people would lead you to believe?
Nick Castle and James V. Hart, the lovable gentleman who wrote the ill-fated Hook screenplay, reunite to write this script, which Kirsten Sheridan directed. If the name is familiar, Sheridan is notable for being the daughter of Jim, director of such films as In America and My Left Foot. To tell the story of August Rush, one has to go back in time to when Louis Connelly (Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Alexander), part of a successful Irish rock band, decides to hook up with classical cellist Lyla Novacek (Keri Russell, Mission: Impossible: III) one night during a tour stop for the band. And like many other instances of casual sex involving rock stars, Lyla gets pregnant. She leaves Louis to return home, and Louis seems heartbroken for years to follow. Several months into the pregnancy, Lyla is hit by a car after leaving a lunch with her father (William Sadler, Die Hard 2). Through some rhyme or reason, dad has some form of emergency Power of Attorney for Lyla, and decides to put the newly and prematurely born baby boy up for adoption, telling Lyla the baby didn't make it. The boy's name is Evan (Freddie Highmore, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), and at eleven years old, he decides to return to New York City to find his parents, though a street person mysteriously named "Wizard" (Robin Williams, Happy Feet) takes him in and becomes fiercely protective, to the point of near hostility, even while Evan, now named August, discovers his musical talents and uses them to call for his parents.
One has to give credit to the filmmakers of August Rush for meaning well, but like Judge Clark Douglas says in his review, the story heaps premise upon premise, for a climax that, for lack of a better word, doesn't really pay off. Even when taking a leap of faith on some of them, the premises come off as a little on the silly side. An orphan hitchhikes to New York City, eventually goes to Juilliard, and conducts a musical piece in Central Park? Sure, it sounds a little preposterous, but told better it probably could have even been believable. But what Sheridan seems to think is that the film will rely on the overall cute factor of Highmore; which is fine, but Highmore now seems to have gotten his grownup teeth, after looking like you could make a china doll out of the kid for the last several years.
As far as the grownups go, there's disappointment here too. Myers and Russell are fine, but the supporting performances of Williams and Terrence Howard (Crash) are equal parts frustrating and wasted. Howard isn't on the screen for nearly the amount of time he should have been, and probably would have been better in Williams' role as Wizard. With apologies to Williams and his Oscar though, this character is one where he's clearly miscast. He's a decade too old for it, and what's worse is he basically yells most of his lines, since apparently doing yet another improvised line about Viagra was either inappropriate, or he realized his schtick is growing old and tiresome. Either way, if Williams and Howard switched roles, it would have helped make August Rush a little easier to digest, though not all that much.
Well, it's not like this 2.40:1 widescreen presentation is all that special, but as it's on a BD-25, I'd guess it would look even better on a BD-50. Still, blacks are pretty deep and the image is multi-dimensional on many occasions. The color palette might not be all that vibrant but stays sharp for the most part. The Dolby TrueHD track is better than expected, with quite a few directional sound effects and adequate speaker panning, and dialogue sounds good, though a little muted. As far as supplements go, there are only seven deleted scenes that total a little over ten minutes. They're reasonably decent with a little more exposition for Louis and Wizard (who is noticeably a little more blunt in these scenes). There's also some more interaction between Wizard and August, but nothing too special.
The way that Sheridan manages to capture the frame of mind August has when he translates the ambient noises to something a little easier to digest from a music lover's perspective is cool, without a doubt. Sure, the motivations are a little on the goofy side, but Sheridan has a good eye for the creative and artistic, and works fairly effectively for both the eyes and ears.
When it comes to movies about orphaned child prodigies, if August Rush doesn't make it to the top of the list, especially after the hype, it should tell you that there's not really much here past the surface. The soundtrack makes for interesting listening, but the performances go wasted in a story that takes a viewer's faith and strings it along to the boiling point, at times making it hardly worth the time and attention.
Guilty for being a movie you're supposed to like and forgive a lot of objections to, and yet still winds up being a disappointment.
Review content copyright © 2008 Ryan Keefer; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* 2.40:1 Non-Anamorphic (Widescreen)
* TrueHD 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Swahili)
Running Time: 113 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Rated PG
* Additional Scenes
* Official Site
* Original Verdict Review