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.)
C- (1 hr., 53 min.; )