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AUGUST RUSH (2007) *** ½ holiday movie review by COOP

Posted on November 24th, 2008
Posted on November 24th, 2008


One of the most satisfying feel-good movies of 2007, “August Rush” flew under the radar of most viewers and got no love from the critics last Thanksgiving. I’m going to blame all of that on mass cynicism and poor marketing because there is no reason this “happy tear-jerker” shouldn’t have been a hit.

This modern fairy tale stars Freddie Highmore as Evan, a sweet-natured 11 year-old orphan who believes without a doubt that his parents are still alive. Upon meeting his new social worker (Terrence Howard), Evan hears the man whistle and can’t get the tune out of his head. This inspires Evan to run away and “follow the music.” At the same time, his biological mother Lyla (Keri Russell), a famous cellist and his father Louis (Johnathan Rhys Meyers), an Irish rocker, have lapsed into isolation and despair. They met one magical night 12 years ago, then never saw each other again due to bad luck and Lyla’s evil, domineering father. On his deathbed, Lyla’s father confesses he gave her son away while she was pregnant and in a coma following a car accident. Lyla vows to find Evan as Louis, haunted by the memory of Lyla, vows to find her. Meanwhile in New York, Evan meets a menagerie of characters who teach him about music. He becomes a prodigy, adopts the stage name “August Rush” and performs in the hope that through music, he will be reunited with his parents.

You have to suspend your disbelief for this one in order to fully enjoy it. Some elements seem unlikely (Evan’s never heard music before?) all the way up to ridiculous (the soap opera between his parents), but that’s what qualifies this film as a fairy tale. It’s the moral we are after here. Music is one of the most magical things humans have created and this movie punctuates that fact with an exclamation mark.

Freddie Highmore gives an inspiring performance and must’ve had some musical training for some of the moves he pulls off on the guitar. While he might seem single-minded and weird to the other characters in story, as the audience we see his deep longing and sadness. We also see his genius and unwavering optimism, which makes for one of the most memorable child characters in recent memory. Russell and Rhys Meyers get some great scenes and I wish they had more of them together. Terrence Howard does well as always, but doesn’t get enough to do. Robin Williams delivers the most bizarre performance as a Fagin-like “Oliver Twist” villain who pimps out runaway child musicians as his own army of beggars/street performers.

The impossible level of happenstance and the naive nature of the movie probably turned the critics off, but it’s obvious they missed the point. Much like the more popular film “Love Actually,” (watch that one for Christmas) the reward is in the message, not the chain of events. This is a crowd pleaser and best watched with loved ones… a perfect movie for the holidays.

Still not convinced? How about this… “August Rush” received an Oscar Nomination for the original gospel song, “Raise It Up.” Although it didn’t win, I rooted for it at the awards ceremony earlier this year.

3 and 1/2 out of 5 stars

Here’s the trailer…

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