Director: Kirsten Sheridan
Writers: Nick Castle, James V. Hart
Starring: Freddie Highmore, Keri Russell, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Robin Williams
Studio Info/Running Time: Warner Brothers, 100 mins.
Ten reasons August Rush made me want to jab glowing-hot pokers into my eyes (BEWARE: lots of spoilers ahead, if you can in fact spoil something that isn't good to begin with):
1. New-agey, gobbledygooky, Twizzler-chewing, hopscotchy, throw-your-arms-around-the-world script that beckons us to open our hearts and follow the music, which will flood our souls with hope if we only have the courage [dramatic pause] to listen. And support a hungry child for $0.10/day.
2. The sparkly-eyed wonder that seems Botox-frozen on child-star Freddie Highmore’s goofy mug for the film’s entire 100-minute duration. His performance reminded me of the kids in those liquid detergent commercials who are gob-smacked to see the animated stain float off a shirt into mid air.
3. The ham-handed sequence in which all the ambient sounds of New York City—blaring cab horns, jackhammers, cell-phone chatter—are carefully remixed to create an urban symphony (“Hey audience! Get it? Everything is music!”). Lars Von Trier already employed this device in Dancer in the Dark, to infinitely greater effect.
4. August, who is maybe eight- or nine-years-old and penniless, runs away from his orphanage and hitchhikes to NYC so he can find his long-lost parents whom he wouldn’t recognize if he passed them in the street but is lucky enough to fall in with a vaguely pedophilic busker named Wizard (played by Patch Adams) who looks like Bono’s evil twin brother and commands an army of underage busking serfs that sleep in a shut-down music club. It's like Oliver Twist, with a twist!
5. Patch Adams butchers the Van Morrison song “Moondance” during a busking scene and not one passerby stones him to death. My suspension of disbelief developed a hernia from such heavy-lifting.
6. Jonathan Rhys Meyers plays August's long-lost father, a Jeff Buckley-type indie rocker who looks like he’s pissing tears out of his eyes every single time he steps in front of the mic. There’s “over the top” and then there’s “chartering a private space shuttle to take you into the highest part of the earth’s atmosphere in your passage up, up, up and over the top.”
7. More plawt: August is lucky enough to be able to play like Kaki King the first time he sets eyes on a real guitar. Then he gets a full-ride scholarship to Juilliard where, six months in, a professor finds him doodling a sprawling rhapsody across his lecture notes. The board of the school, acting like they've never seen prodigious musical talent before, slobbers buckets and invites him to conduct the New York philharmonic at its summer concert series in Central Park.
8. Wizard somehow manages to locate August in a Juilliard rehearsal space--by using his wizard magic, presumably--and tries to lure him back onto the busking circuit by claiming in front of the class that he's August's father and August has to go now. August goes with him and I can feel the theater audience around me recoiling: “Oh no, Augie’s going to miss the big concert!”
9. August on why he started playing music: “I thought if I could play it, [my long lost parents] would know I was alive. And find me.” Not quite as plausible as I wanted to get chicks but whatever.
10. Surprise! August doesn’t miss the big concert, after all. He escapes Wizard’s clutches, runs the length of Manhattan to Central Park in about four minutes and casually waltzes onstage at the last second with perfectly sculpted hair, wearing a tiny little tailored tuxedo, just in time to conduct the orchestra who apparently didn't hire a replacement conductor after Wizard yanked him out of school. August's rhapsody, which feels oddly reminiscent of Hans Zimmer’s soundtrack work, turns out to be a huge success and his long-lost parents (who've been trying to find each other for seven years since their fateful one-night stand) are drawn mystically and inexorably to the stage. As the final note dissolves, they both happen to lock eyes and realize they’ve found each other…and their precious boy! [Cue closing credits]