(director: Kirsten Sheridan; screenwriters: Nick Castle/James V. Hart/based on a story by Paul Castro and Mr. Castle; cinematographer: John Mathieson; editor: William Steinkamp; music: Mark Mancina; cast: Freddie Highmore (August Rush/Evan Taylor), Keri Russell (Lyla Novacek), Jonathan Rhys Meyers (Louis Connelly), Terrence Howard (Richard Jeffries), Robin Williams (Wizard), Arthur (Leon G. Thomas III), William Sadler (Thomas Novacek), Marian Seldes (The Dean), Mykelti Williamson (Reverend James), Ronald Guttman (Professor); Runtime: 112; MPAA Rating: PG; producer: Richard Barton Lewis; Warner Brothers; 2007)
“Seems to want to wear its schmaltz on its breast pocket as if it were a medal of honor.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A ridiculous contemporary urban fairy tale directed by adding enough sugar not only to kill a diabetic but kill anyone with even an ounce of feeling. It’s a shamelessly corny piece of dreck by Irish filmmaker Kirsten Sheridan (“Disco Pigs”/ “Patterns”/”War Zone”) that seems to want to wear its schmaltz on its breast pocket as if it were a medal of honor. It’s based on a story by Paul Castro and Nick Castle, with Mr. Castle and James V. Hart turning in the whimsical screenplay. My favorite awkward scenes, in a movie that only has awkward scenes, all involve Robin Williams (who happens to be the film’s best actor), doing his usual bad acting job but not even giving a full effort as he phones in his performance; this time coming on as Fagin out of Oliver Twist and dressed like either Jon Voight in Midnight Cowboy or in a serious Bono getup.
The film’s best hope for success is a gullible viewer who can suspend his disbelief and lap up all the mawkish moments as if they were genuinely warm and fuzzy moments. It follows the story of star-crossed lovers Lyla Novacek (Keri Russell) and Louis Connelly (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), who share the best night of their young lives making whoopie on the roof of a building facing Greenwich Village’s Washington Square Park. He’s a rock musician from Ireland playing with an American band, she’s a grad of Julliard playing the classical cello. Her controlling upper-class dad (William Sadler), from the Midwest, ushers her away from Louis, and when she gives birth to a boy dad makes her put him up for adoption. Eleven years go by in a nano second and the orphaned child, named Evan (Freddie Highmore) but is given the name August Rush, a wine cooler, by the Wizard (Robin Williams). The Wizard takes in the runaway from a children’s shelter to live with other runaways in the condemned old Fillmore East Theater and discovers he has a musical prodigy on his hands and is someone to be valued because he can bring in big coin panhandling in the streets as a busker. The kid meanwhile is searching for parents who dont realize he’s alive and he keeps hearing music everywhere, which he says is their calling card to him. The kid tells one and all that to hear the music “All you have to do is listen.” This is an idea swiped from John Cage, who said “all sounds are music.”
There’s no director that can make crap like that into art. There isn’t one single moment in this inane melodrama that isn’t contrived, and the only thing believable about it is that it stinks. It leads to an ending that relies on a series of unlikely coincidences coming together, like the perfect storm, even though it defies logic. In any case all the innocent unfortunates are suddenly against all odds back together in the Great Lawn of Central Park catching August conduct the New York Philharmonic, as they perform a symphony he wrote. If you believe that, I can get you a good price on the Brooklyn Bridge.
REVIEWED ON 11/21/2007 GRADE: D