November 29, 2007

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August Rush (PG)
An orphan who believes in the power of music and in the power of believing seeks his parents in August Rush, a movie that goes on for some 113 unrelenting minutes despite being easy to suss out in about 10 minutes.

The semi-famous actor almost always plays the guilty character on Law & Order and you almost always know it in the first 10 minutes. And yet I’ll sit through episodes of that show (particularly the period from about the mid-1990s to the early 2000s) satisfied just to watch the story unfold. In August Rush, I knew exactly how the story would turn out but, perhaps because of the absence of Sam Waterston and the presence of Robin Williams, the time trudged by slower than the minutes of a workout on the treadmill.

Evan (Freddie Highmore) is a boy who believes in music like other people believe in fairy tales — a sentiment he expresses in the movie’s opening moments and one that really sets the tone for the kind of thing we’re in for. A quiet kid living in an orphanage, Evan hangs on to the belief that his parents are alive, out there and desperate to find him. Luckily for him, his cello-playing mom Lyla (Keri Russell) and his rock-and-roll-band dad Louis (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) kinda fit that description — thanks to some deeply stupid movie contrivances they are separated after the night they first met, the night when they bow-chicka-wow-wowed and produced Evan but, sigh, still love each other. Then, the pregnant Lyla is hassled into a car accident by her controlling father (William Sadler). When she wakes, she’s told her child “is gone” but we know that “gone” means hustled into an unlikely adoption while Lyla was unconscious. Later, when her dad’s on his deathbead, Lyla learns the truth, and she goes searching for her son who is now Freddie Highmore’s age.

Meanwhile, Evan has ditched the orphanage (or whatever euphemism the movie uses for “orphanage”) and headed into New York City. Though he seems somewhat interested in visiting his friendly social worker (Terrence Howard), he eventually settles on “wandering around” as a good way to pass the time, eventually meeting a young street musician who brings him to Wizard (Williams), a crazy homeless man who rules over a condemned building that is home to oodles of little buskers. Wizard gets them to kick some of their earnings up to him and, in exchange, he sort of helps them run when the police show up to take them back to foster care.

Evan, who has now taken on the stage name August Rush, doesn’t need help running and he darts off. This time, he takes refuge at a church, where a precocious young girl and a kindly pastor decide he is a musical genius and enroll him at Julliard. And, when the symphony calls the famous Lyla to play cello in a special outdoor concert, they also decide to perform a rhapsody, written by a certain child prodigy.

Forget the preposterous plot, the leaden dialogue and the paper-thin characters — August Rush, worse than just being trite and saccharine, is boring. Painfully boring. Not even when it appears, for just a moment, that Williams’ character might turn out to be some kind of psychokiller, does the movie pick up. The plot drips on like water torture as we wait for characters to figure out things we already know and go places we know they’re going to end up. D

Rated PG for some thematic elements, mild violence and language. Directed by Kirsten Sheridan and written by Nick Castle, James V. Hart and Paul Castro, August Rush is an hour and 53 minutes and is distributed in wide release by Warner Bros.