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March 31, 2008
Review - " August Rush " (on DVD) - By Roland Hansen
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August Rush                      Rated PG

Starring: Freddie Highmore, Keri Russell, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Robin Williams, Terrence
Howard. Directed by: Kirsten Sheridan

Going in to “August Rush”, you've got to be more than willing to accept fairy tale magic; you've
got to be looking to embrace it, with all of its whimsy and overzealous sense of wonder. That
way, the movie can be sweet (if a bit ponderously so) as opposed to so precious you feel the
need to punt it through a window. It's a fine line, and “August Rush” is balancing it the whole
way through.

Freddie Highmore plays the title character. He has grown up in a group home for boys in
upstate New York , where he hears music in the world, from the corn fields to the moonlight. He
sets out one day, believing that if he follows the music, it will lead to his parents; where it
actually leads is New York City, where the noise of the city turns into the rhythmic
beginnings of a Stomp number. There, he hooks up with a band of street
urchins/musicians straight out of Oliver twist run by the unstable and off-putting
Wizard (Robin Williams as a creepy redhead). When August discovers things like
guitars and sheet music that allow him to produce the music he hears, he becomes
a prodigy, and a sensation.

And of course, because “August Rush” is all about the magic of fate and
coincidence, this little boy's love of music comes from some sort of machinations of
the gods: His mother Lyla (Keri Russell) is a star concert cellist; his father Louis
(Jonathan Rhys Meyers) is the guitarist and singer of a rock band. The two meet
by coincidence on a rooftop and share one perfect night of moonlight and music,
and are separated after. One thing that impressed me about this film was the way
they managed to blend together the seemingly divergent musical styles of ‘rock’
and ‘classical’ in a seamless harmony, showing that, although they come from
different worlds, they are not so far apart as one might imagine.  As August is
looking for them, they are looking for one another and him. It's a small world,
really, that separates August from his parents, but despite the number of
coincidences and close calls that have parents and child nearly meeting, it takes
them a very, very long time to actually get there.
If you find a story so heavy on the charm appealing, though, then August Rush delivers. Highmore is a spectacularly
endearing little boy, and he plays the wise-beyond-his-years waif to perfection. Besides that, the film is cast almost entirely
with likable and recognizable stars; in addition to Russell, Meyers, and Williams, Terrence Howard plays a sympathetic
employee of child protective services. If nothing else, “August Rush” is pleasant, so long as you don't go looking for realism
or practicality.

The movie is every bit as super sweet and precious as it sounds; it's also rather slow, and prone to long sequences of
nothing but light playing off shiny objects and cacophonies of rhythmic sound. It also places its entire plot on the belief that
a mother can instantly recognize a son she's never seen, that fate wields an actively guiding hand, and that music can
transcend all other forms of communication in ways that we inherently understand, if we merely listen. Even if it sounds like
so much touchy-feely nonsense, “August Rush” manages it with just enough sincerity and embracing of magic that it
manages to stay just this side of saccharine, most of the time.