Eric D. Snider

August Rush

Movie Review

August Rush

by Eric D. Snider

Grade: C-

Released: November 21, 2007


Directed by:


Very little of what happens in "August Rush" is plausible. Heck, Robin Williams plays a Bono-like street musician who lives in a condemned theater with a brigade of homeless kids who are also street musicians, whom he governs like Fagin in "Oliver Twist" -- and that's not even the least believable part of the movie.

What is the least believable part? Hard to say. Maybe it's the protagonist, an 11-year-old musical prodigy named Evan (Freddie Highmore), going to Juilliard despite having no parents, no guardian, no birth certificate, and entering under a fake name. Maybe its his Dickens-esque attempt to find his long-lost parents. Considering Evan has no legitimate reason to believe his parents are even alive, much less that they are interested in seeing him, you have to admire his ... well, let's be charitable and call it "optimism."

But I truly think the movie's least believable element is the fact that Evan's mother, a concert cellist named Lyla (Keri Russell), doesn't even realize she has a son. Yes, you read that right. How does a woman become a mother and not know it? Well, she loses consciousness as she's giving birth, you see, and when she wakes up her controlling father (William Sadler) tells her the child was stillborn, when secretly he gave the baby to an orphanage. Apparently no doctors or nurses ever spoke to Lyla during her hospital stay (for surely the subject would have come up one way or another), and apparently you can give someone else's baby away just by forging her signature.

When Lyla finds out, 11 years later, that her dad lied to her about her baby, BOY IS SHE STEAMED!!!

So there's the geometry of the movie: Evan is looking for his parents, Lyla is looking for her son, and Louis (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), a rock-singer whose one-night stand with Lyla produced Evan, is looking for Lyla again. Lyla and Louis only spent a few hours together 12 years ago, but they still pine for one another now. I suspect Louis is in for a nasty surprise when he finds out he's a dad, but I guess we'll leave that for the sequel.

The screenplay, rife with uninspired and melodramatic dialogue, is by Nick Castle and James V. Hart, co-writers of "Hook," which also had Robin Williams cavorting with Lost Boys. (I like to point out unusual coincidences.) I'm curious to know if the story was always intended to be set in modern-day New York, or if it was originally meant for an earlier time period. If it were set in the 1800s, many of the film's least-believable elements -- secretly giving away babies, getting into schools without parents or identification, living undetected in an abandoned theater with two dozen kids -- would be much more plausible.

It's directed by Kirsten Sheridan, whose father is the Irish filmmaker Jim Sheridan ("My Left Foot," "In the Name of the Father"). She tries mightily to make the material inspiring and sentimental, and it does have a certain generic wholesomeness to it. Unfortunately, its exertions are too obvious, its story too contrived for us to swallow it.

And did I mention Robin Williams? And that he has a soul patch? OK.

(Note: Maybe I'm obsessive, but when a movie mentions dates, I pay attention. This movie screws them all up. We're told Evan was born Dec. 17, 1995. He tells a social worker he's been at the orphanage for "11 years and 16 days." Assuming he arrived there within a day or two of his birth, that means the present date is about Jan. 2, 2007. He runs away to New York City shortly after that -- but the posters the orphanage plasters everywhere say he's been missing since Feb. 9, 2006, a full year off. They also say he's 12 years old now, which is obviously wrong. When Lyla starts looking for Evan, she says he was born "11 years, 2 months, 15 days" ago, making the current date March 4, 2007. Evan then goes to Juilliard for "six months," making it September or thereabouts, at which point there's a Juilliard concert in Central Park, which someone says they do "every spring." Dumb.)

Grade: C-

Rated PG, a little mild profanity, a little mild sexual innuendo

1 hr., 53 min.

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This item has 19 comments

  1. Pattie says:

    That's it? Since when do movies have to be plausible?

  2. Puffy Treat says:

    Fiction where "anything goes because it just DOES, it's fiction!" is usually not good fiction.

  3. happyman says:

    It's very true. I remember hearing science fiction writers say that you can only get away with one "magic" technology, or one trick. The rest has to match what we know.

    I don't think this is strictly true, but it is true that a world created in fiction has to have an internal consistency which people can latch onto.into order to enjoy it. OK, we'll allow you to have teleporters. If there are limits on how they can be used, though, we expect you to stick to them. If the world is supposed to be set in our world, we expect you to abide by the rules unless you give a really good reason why the rules don't apply (magic, aliens, the matrix). Etc.

  4. I Love Music says:

    Dave Metzger's music in this movie is unreal. It is profound and beautiful.

    As August Rush says: "I believe in music the way some people believe in fairy tales...."

    and at a different time-- "only some people can hear it"

    I'm not upset with your review, I wish you would have mentioned the beautiful music.

  5. choko says:

    Eric - I feel sorry for you that you missed the music behind the story. Perhaps if you'd actually listened to the film you may have found it more entertaining. It appears you just saw the pictures on the screen and missed what was holding them together.

    Whether or not the film is believable is immaterial. After all, it depends on what your beliefs are and how you choose to see life. I chose to hear the story about the sounds of the universe flowing through the lives of the people in the film.

    The world in the film may be set in our world but our world is a part of a universe where we can only begin to imagine the rules which may apply.

  6. Jenn says:

    I didn't get a chance to see this in the theaters & so I rented it when it came out last week. Glad I only spent $1 at the Redbox for it!! I really liked Freddie Highmore in "Charlie & the Chocolate Factory" so that's why I gave it a chance, but by the end, I had to concede defeat & admit that I didn't care for the movie at all. I do have to agree that the music was gorgeous though!

  7. Jordan says:

    Okay who ever wrote this review compleatley missed the point of the movie. Obviously some of the stuff is'nt real. Because for one thing the moon cant talk and music doesnt tell you where to go.

    Personally i loved this movie, its definatley my favorite. You have to agree that the music is amazing and so is the acting. If you dont like this movie it shocks me it just doesnt make since to me like i cant comprehend why you wouldnt. Maybe you just dislike happiness, love, and most of all music but whatever i love it.

  8. Ben C. says:

    Watched this over the weekend. I agree with Eric. I kept finding myself saying, how can someone in this day and age do what Robin Williams was doing, and how come no one at Juilliard asked for a parent permission, or anything along those lines before admitting him? I kept saying to my wife that maybe he was mildly autistic and THAT'S how he can be a musical genius. But the movie never explains that... Unless you believe that he's just crazy because he hears the moon.

    No doubt the music was good, but the story was lacking and full of holes.

  9. Brian says:

    Just watched this and though I can't argue on the points of feasibilty, I very much enjoyed this movie. It had a great story despite some illogical oversites in the plot. As for the points mentioned by Eric, stranger things have happened in the real world and I can't see faulting a movie for not falling into rhelm of what should happen as opposed to what could. Babies are stollen from the hospital and lost repeatedly, people keep their kids locked in cages and in basements for years, and to think that a school wouldnt take an extremely gifted student if even for their own personal gain, doesn't seem to unbelievable. I am usually in agrrement with Eric's reviews but I gotta say that this one is a solid B.

  10. Ian says:

    I had the misfortune to be stuck with this as the best of bad choices on a transatlantic flight. I'd finished my book and I can't sleep on airplanes, so it was either this or stare at the wall for two hours. I found myself kind of wishing I'd stared at the wall. Not only are Eric's substantive comments spot-on, I thought the music was also quite lacking. For a supposed child prodigy, the final concert was no better than anything Yanni has ever put out - that is, you can listen to it, but it's not memorable, and certainly not worthy of a Mozart-esque kid, as "August" was suggested to be by the young girl partway through.

  11. Ang says:

    I thought this was a sweet little fairy tale, and I enjoyed it thoroughly. Admittedly, though, I watched it while getting a great workout on the treadmill, so I guess all I can say is that it's a great movie (and music) to work out to. The attention to dates that still managed to be inaccurate WAS a bit annoying and unecessary; as Oliver Twist with a day dream ending, it needed a timelessness that the constant reference to dates destroyed. Still - sweet. Loved it. I agree with Brian - solid B.

  12. zane says:

    Um...wasn't Terrence Howard in this movie? Was he that insignificant to the story to not even be mentioned?

  13. Morgan says:

    Personally, I think the movie deserves a much higher rating. Okay, sure some of it seems a bit on the "iffy" side, but it wasn't the point of the movie. The music was, in one word, phenomenal. The movie itself was very inspirational. And though it sort of made me feel a bit inferior, I can't say that it didn't give me hope/courage to do anything I put my mind to. I give it a B.

  14. Mason says:

    Its one of Freddie Highmores best movies ever.......the movie is very inspirational and anything is possible!5 stars

  15. Staubs says:

    Can't agree more! The movie was painful from the very beginning with empty lines and no real time for the believable development of character relationships. Had I not been on a double date I would have left. The young boy actor is also so soft spoken as if he should be taken as extremely profound at every word. While the music was great in parts, as a whole, it was filled with repeating chords and intense loud (again repeated) low notes, which make us feel inspired, but leave us with little more. Mozart was a prodigy because he created music. August got lucky.

    This movie was unbelievable to such a point that it wasn't even fun to escape into this world, which is what makes unbelievable movies fun.

  16. Eric Herman says:

    My wife and I just watched this on DVD and I thought you were actually pretty kind in the review. I liked the idea of "music is everywhere" and how that was represented in some segments of the film, and the guitar music and some of the other pieces were quite good (the music in "music movies" isn't always great), but the movie itself... yikes.

    One thing that was downright dumb was when the Robin Williams character comes into the orchestral rehearsal and tries to get August to leave with him, telling him that he knows his real name, as if he'll reveal it if August doesn't say that he's his father... SO WHAT??? Why would August/Evan care at that point?? I thought he wanted to be found and publicized?? So very ridiculous. If they had made some intimations that maybe the Robin Williams character might have actually been August's father... which they certainly could have done... then that could have been more interesting.

  17. rykoch says:

    My problem with this movie was the editing when Freddie was conducting. They'd switch to different takes/angles, and all of a sudden he was conducting with weird patterns (like conducting a downbeat the beat after it was played, etc.). It also bugged when he was supposed to be playing three notes in descending tones, and he was "playing them" in ascending. For a movie all about music, it was somewhat obvious that Freddie and the gang had very little actual music training. Even Mr. Holland's Opus was better in this regard (although that one still bugged as well).

  18. Jolene LeBlanc says:

    See, I just hope they're not throwing in anything about that certain religion that talks to the moon, cause not everyone believes in that stuff. For some strong believers in their own faith and religion this can take the fun out of watchin gsuch a movie that's so perfect. It doesn't have a lot of violence, doesn't even have a lot of profanity in my opinion, doesn't get to hard into witchcraft and creatures and stuff. now it gotta get ruined by people who believe in something that's not true.

  19. La'Keya Holmes says:

    I personally feel that there should be sequel to this movie. I would like to know what happens to the family after they re-unite.I would like to know what happens to the charectors.

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