A heartwarming "August Rush"

Nov. 19, 2007, midnight | By Charles Kong | 14 years, 6 months ago

Enchanting music captures the ear

After a disastrous experience six years ago with "Disco Pigs," a violent and twisted romance, director Kirsten Sheridan has rearranged her mindset with "August Rush," a light-hearted family film. Instead of showcasing a hysterical mess with crime at its center, "August Rush" brings forth a fountain of music and magic that is bound to compel even the coldest people to sniff back a few salty droplets.

The film is a gentle reworking of Charles Dickens' "Oliver Twist." Two exceptionally talented musicians, rock star Louis Connelly (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) and cellist Lyla Novacek (Keri Russell), engage in a one night stand following mutual musical highlight performances. The result is Evan (Freddie Highmore), a musical prodigy who becomes separated from his mother at birth and placed in an orphanage. Eleven years later, Evan, determined to find his parents, finally runs away and ends up living in an abandoned theater under the guidance of Fagin-like character "Wizard" (Robin Williams). Now renamed "August Rush," he becomes exploited as his musical talents blossom, yet he never gives up hope that music will bring his family back together.

"August Rush" possesses the power to move its audience, but the plotline is fairly unrealistic. It's already hard to believe that August, after escaping the orphanage, ends up back at his birthplace, but the coincidence that his parents both quit their musical professions after they are separated is even more far-fetched. A cynic may not buy it, but those that do may reach the conclusion that it was necessary in order to show the true connecting power of music. A series of flashbacks in the beginning may cause confusion between past and present, but August's tender and innocent narration throughout the story pulls the audience back to its feet.

The musically-driven movie showcases a well-crafted blend of classical symphony and light rock that drives the characters and the story to their destinies. Mark Mancina and Hans Zimmer's soothing, evocative music, cleverly melding the noise of New York City's blazing sirens and car honks into a coherent rhythm, carries the audience along for the ride.

John Mathieson's cinematography further establishes a serene mood in the bustling streets of New York City, making it possible for an orphan like August to even have a chance at reaching his goal. The grand visuals of Washington Square and Central Park at night extend the movie's enchanting scenery, compelling the audience to gaze in awe.

Highmore continues to strengthen his reputation as one of Hollywood's emerging stars, displaying as astounding of a performance in "August Rush" as he did in "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" and "Finding Neverland." He carries enough charm to lead the story; his genuine facial expressions are convincing but not overdone, and he resists the temptation to exaggerate sappy moments.

Unfortunately, Russell and Meyers play only subordinate roles in this fantasy. All they are allotted are roles as desperate individuals who frown upon everything that happens in their lives. Even their love for each other seems strained and false. Williams' part as the "Wizard" also seems unfitting. Though part of the blame can be placed on the miserable role, the "Wizard" just doesn't fit his persona, being that this is one of the few times he plays a menacing, cackling antagonist.

Nevertheless, the mollifying soundtrack capable of enhancing the sensations generated by the characters allows "August Rush" to succeed. The audience may even chuckle here or there as August finds himself in several sticky situations in Manhattan. Sheridan proves herself capable of establishing the mood with smooth, elongated transitions from one scene to the next. And no doubt will the melodic tunes of the guitar, along with the gentle whistling of the wind, give the audience a higher appreciation for the true beauty of the music found in nature.

"August Rush" is rated PG for some thematic elements, mild violence and language and is now playing in select theaters. It will open on wide release on Nov. 21.

Charles Kong. Charles Kong loves to play tennis. Actually, he likes to play sports in general. He tries not to procrastinate, but his success rate varies. He likes listening to music and using the computer, and loves Jackie Chan movies. He is super excited for Chips, even … More »

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