August Rush sucks, plain and simple.
I like fairy tales but only when they’re done well. I don’t have a problem with suspending disbelief for a film as long as the movie does two things: sets rules in the first 15 minutes or so and follows them throughout the movie. As long as they are set up early, I don’t even care how ludicrous these boundaries seem.
Even though I’m not asking for much, August Rush manages to fail this test miserably.
I assumed in the beginning that these human beings are at least half-way intelligent, but…no. Any person has enough common sense to not make some of the decisions made in this film. Even the intelligent decisions aren’t believable because of the reasoning (or lack thereof) of the characters. So, when I say this movie is “incredible,” I just mean that the movie is “not credible,” and the word is in no way intended to be construed as praise. Do not misquote me.
The “plot”: Lyla (Keri Russell) and Louis (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) have a romantic evening of having sex on a rooftop and are meant to be together forever. Their spawn (Freddie Highmore), who later gets the name August Rush from a lunatic street musician (Robin Williams), ends up getting put in an adoption home, then escapes to the streets of New York to be a street musician in a sequence too much like Oliver Twist to be an homage rather than a complete rip-off, complete with Williams as a terrible incarnation of Fagan. Then some black guy who works with child services (Terrence Howard) tries to track down the unnamed abandoned child who somehow escaped from the boys’ home. Oh, and “August” plays guitar real good.
Aw, how inspiring.
The only thing I found even remotely “inspiring” was thinking of great movies with similar themes that I’d rather watch than August Rush: for adoption homes, Boys Town; for (metaphorically) lost children, The 400 Blows; for the bonds of family, The Grapes of Wrath.
And it’s not that movies today featuring fairy-tale elements can’t work. Perfume: the Story of a Murderer, my favorite film from last year, is a brilliant piece of art, and this year’s Across the Universe is wonderfully uplifting. If it weren’t for the use of the Beatles’ music to construct a story, Universe‘s plot would be too contrived and the storyline too stale to work; and because Perfume stays within its early-set boundaries, it comes off beautifully.
Consider it a fair warning, though: don’t be fooled by the talent on display in August Rush. Highmore (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) is a talented little actor, and he’s done some great work. Howard was Oscar-worthy in Hustle & Flow, and Robin Williams was awesome… when he did (or still does) cartoon voices (he was more than welcome in Happy Feet, but the live-action version of him is much too animated for real life).
The movie is even written by Kirsten Sheridan, the daughter of Jim Sheridan, who is known for his tough Irish movies like My Left Foot, In the Name of the Father, and In America (which Kirsten co-wrote with her sister and father).
I would say August Rush is the worst movie of the year, but it would be competing with these potential turkeys in the coming weeks: Awake, I Am Legend, Alvin and the Chipmunks, National Treasure 2, P.S. I Love You, and Alien vs. Predator: Requiem. The movie may have some competition after all, but “C’est la vie,” say the old folks: goes to show you never can tell.