If Judge Christopher Kulik didn't get a rush watching this film in April, then he surely won't get a rush watching it in August, either.
The music is everywhere. All you have to do is listen.
"I quite honestly cannot think of a recent motion picture that went to greater lengths of preposterous melodrama in order to create a fairy tale ending. This material would make Charles Dickens blush; it makes one consider Paul Haggis as a master of subtlety."—Judge Clark Douglas, Original Verdict Review
"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."—Judge Ryan Keefer, Blu-Ray Review
Fellow Judges Ryan and Clark both pretty much sum up the mediocre, uninspired August Rush with those two quotes, though since the film is also available on HD DVD, then another review is required. Don't fret, though, this one will be quick and to the point.
Facts of the Case
Eleven-year-old Evan (Freddie Highmore, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) has run away from an orphanage where he was mocked for saying that he follows music everywhere he goes. Evan isn't an orphan, however; his mother, Lyla (Keri Russell, Waitress), and father, Louis (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, Match Point), both musicians, got separated due to unforeseen circumstances.
Now lost in New York City, Evan eventually finds himself adopted by a red-haired, ear-ringed, Fagin-like man named Wizard (Robin Williams, Good Will Hunting). While Lyla and Louis search for him, Wizard discovers a gift in Evan in how well he plays music. Now nicknamed August Rush, Evan uses the power of melody and rhythm to be reunited with his parents.
From the opening shot of August Rush, I knew I was in trouble. In a huge field, Evan has his hands extended in the air and seems as if he is about to twirl any minute. Did anyone just say The Sound of Music? To make matters worse, the characters are then awkwardly introduced and their developments are rushed—yes, pun intended. After a half hour, I didn't care about these people and, by the end of the film, I still didn't care about them.
The writing by James V. Hart and Nick Castle may have yielded potential, though it alludes to Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist much too often. Some of the dialogue just made me cringe, like when Terrence Howard's character says "There's a whole world out there with millions of wind chimes." Naturally, I predicted that wind chimes would appear later in the film. That's the least of the film's problems though; it ultimately fails to be uplifting and inspirational. Instead, it comes off as rambling and superficial.
The biggest sin of August Rush is that it's too damn long. I didn't see this film in the theaters, though I wouldn't be surprised if many kids were falling asleep or were more amused throwing popcorn at people. The film finds a note of sappy sentimentality early on and then insists on beating itself to death for almost two hours. I must have yawned more times in the second half than I did watching any other film of the past year.
As for the terrific cast, well, I'll say they are all certainly sincere. This is especially true of the always-likable Robin Williams, who only manages to complement his unfunny turn in another 2007 film, License To Wed, with another groaner. In all fairness, his character is written in a haphazard way, and it ends up not making a lot of sense. I find it hard to believe that a man who claims to care about children stuck in the adoption system would occasionally turn threatening towards his flock of street urchins. His only motivation seems to be to make money.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
The best thing I can say about August Rush is not about the film itself, but the HD presentation. The 1080p high definition transfer is nearly immaculate, with proper flesh tones and rich colors. The superb score by Mark Mancina (Speed) pulsates in Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround; additional tracks are available in French and Spanish, both DD Plus 5.1. As a matter of fact, the music was so good it was the one element that was keeping me awake all the way to the end. Subtitles are also provided in English, French, and Spanish.
I guess I should be grateful that there was no commentary track for me to slog through. It still would have been nice to hear from freshman director Kirsten (daughter of Jim) Sheridan and how she approached August Rush. What we do have on the bonus side are some additional scenes, which don't really add any more weight, though I'm glad they were not included in the final cut. They would have just made an already overlong film be much longer.
Trust me when I say that there is nothing new or special about August Rush. For your kids, I would recommend either The Sound of Music or Oliver!, which are both far superior. (P.S. They are both Best Picture winners too!)
The film is found guilty of being slow, stilted, and superfluous. Warner Bros., however, is acquitted for a better presentation than the film deserves.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
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