Run away from "August Rush"

Nov. 20, 2007, midnight | By Kiera Zitelman | 16 years, 5 months ago

Please don't follow the music!

Note to viewers: movie trailers can deceive. The worst movies often have the best previews. Take, for example, "August Rush." Trailer version: an imaginative, lighthearted drama about an orphaned boy trying to find his parents through music. Actual movie: an awful creation that wastes the talents of decent actors and focuses its energy on meaningless blather.

It is hard to recognize where "August Rush" first goes wrong. Was it the casting? The writing? The music? The storyline, perhaps? Evan Taylor (Freddie Highmore) lives in an orphanage, where the other boys make fun of him for his aloof demeanor. Of course, it appears that the teasing was justified, as Evan's only lines are "I'm following the music" and "Maybe my parents will hear me" (he seems to believe that his birth parents are both musicians, and therefore will find him if he learns to play music). One night he wanders onto the road (following the music, no doubt) and finds himself in New York City. He soon falls under the spell of "the Wizard" (Robin Williams), an older man of questionable sanity who trains children in music, sends them out to play on street-corners and then takes their tips in exchange for giving them shelter.

Meanwhile, Evan's cello-playing mother (Keri Russell), after hearing a complicated and largely implausible story from her dying father that he gave away her baby to save her career, finally learns that her son is alive. The story goes that she was hit by a car near her due date, has the baby delivered successfully only to be given away by her father and remembers nothing due to her injuries. How convenient. She races to New York, where Evan's father (Jonathan Rhys Myers) also happens to be, playing in an Irish rock band. And – wouldn't you know it? – Evan happens to be a music prodigy. The rest of the movie consists of Evan's desperate and lengthy search for his parents through his musical skills.

The main problem with "August Rush" is that it is built on an unbelievable series of coincidences. Evan's father and mother randomly meet at a party, where a street performer nearby plays Van Morrison's classic romance song, "Moondance," to get them in the mood. That romance produces Evan, the music prodigy. His father comes to New York at the exact time that Evan's concert is occurring. His mother happens to be performing with the New York Philharmonic on that same night. And, when Evan is playing guitar in Central Park, his father walks up and they play a beautiful song together. How fortunate.

The saddest part of the film is the waste of the leading actors. Highmore, who was previously in "Finding Neverland" and "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," is stuck in a pointless role with repetitive lines. He does the best he can, but it doesn't pay off. Russell's lines sink even lower: "I know it sounds crazy, but I can hear him! I swear I can hear him!" And Myers, who showed so much promise in Woody Allen's "Match Point," falls flat on his face with his character's jumpiness: first, he leaves the band and pursues a business career in San Francisco, then comes back to play in his old band, then briefly chases a solo career, then gets back with the band – you get the idea.

If the misleading trailer still compels anyone to see "August Rush," a tiny ray of hope can be found in the music, which might be worth sitting through 100 minutes of agony. Evan plays guitar, piano and organ with undeniable skill. The first time he picks up a guitar, he slaps the neck and plays it on the ground, like a piano. In his first time playing in Central Park, he makes up a catchy and complex guitar song that would draw crowds in real life. But, sadly, it is all downhill from there.

"August Rush" is lost and aimless – while billed as a family movie, "dramedy" is more accurate. The acting and dramatic story are so abysmal that the viewer ends up paralyzed in fits of laughter, or the viewer might end up crying from the pain of it all.

"August Rush" is rated PG for some thematic elements, mild violence, and language. Opens Nov. 21 2007 everywhere.

Kiera Zitelman. Kiera Zitelman goes by many names and Photo Booth effects. She enjoys being able to drive and representing Kensington. She likes her dog, Sophie, and her human friend of the same name. Kiera owns one-third of a hot dog toaster and one-fourth of a movie … More »

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