August Rush DVD: Review By Brian Gallagher

While the music they do use here is done quite beautifully, the story they frame around it is far from beautiful. It’s just plain bad.
  • OVERALL
    1.5
    POOR
  • Feature
  • Picture
  • Sound
  • Extras
  • Replay Value
THE GOOD
Decent performances from Freddie Highmore, Robin Williams, Terrence Howard and some lovely music.
THE BAD
A horrible story about the power of said music that is as contrived as can be and the special features blow too.
THE FEATURE
I had a pretty good feeling that August Rush wasn't a movie seated in reality when I first saw the trailer. Sure, it looked sweet and all, with a fairly well-rounded cast... but I was leery, at best, and my susp*cions were proven true.

You know what this reminded me of? An American Tail. Yeah, that's right, Fivel and the whole gang. I was nine years old when that came out, so yeah, I saw it. Not only does the tale of American Tail remind me of the movie because of the corny, similar stories about finding your family, but because An American Tail was an animated flick and, the way this was presented, this really should've been animated as well.

The whole time I was watching this, it really had this sort of animated story feel to it. It's basically a story about two musicians from different sides of the musical tracks, the guy, Louis (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) in a rock band and the girl, Lyla (Keri Russell) a concert cellist, who meet in bizarre circ*mstances and in a matter of minutes fall in love and hook up on this New York City rooftop. In the morning, Louis' bandmates make an ass out of him and he rushes off to find her, only to see Lyla being taken away by her controlling father. We see this footage for a bit then we see footage of a young boy named Evan Taylor (Freddie Highmore) who is living in a home for orphaned boys and constantly picked on for still believing his parents are out there somewhere looking for him and such. As we go back and forth and back and forth, the pieces fall into play a lot quicker than I think they give the audience credit for, because it's pretty damn obvious what's happening a few beats, at least, ahead of the movie.

So it keeps moving forward, splicing Louis' story, now a non-musician who still dreams of Lyla, Lyla, a non-musician music teacher who still dreams of her child that she thought was dead (I'm not even explaining that because it was SO retarded), and Evan, an uber-musician prodigy who hears music from everything and just knows his parents are listening to him somewhere. It's when Evan escapes from the home and runs into a street urchin named Wizard (Robin Williams), he starts to realize his gift with music, which leads to a new hipper name: August Rush. FYI, they got the damn name off of a truck that said "It's August, Rush To the Beach" or something like that. UGH!

This damn thing is all over the place and since it isn't structured that well, it really isn't that hard to figure out what is going to happen at least a few minutes ahead of time. Kind of like that movie Next, only that's the LEAST you can see ahead, not the most. The ending is a foregone conclusion that I could've told you by just seeing the damn trailer. It's not even that they got us to that point in a very interesting fashion either, and that is what's really annoying.

They try to spin this music prodigy story waytoo far here, with him starting off learning how to play a mean guitar and then it builds more and more and then all of the sudden he's in Julliard. As the kids say, WTF mate? This syrupy script from Nick Castle and James V. Hart not only throws us too many stories at once with Evan/August and the individual tales of his parents, seemingly for the only reason to hammer home the point that they could all feel the music together, all three of them, this whole time... if that isn't a HUGE metaphor for that frickin American Tail song about looking under the same sky, then I don't know what the hell is.

The acting isn't bad, with Highmore solid as usual, but down a few notches from his last few wonderful performances, and Russell and Rhys Meyers are so-so as his distant (but close, cause of the music...) parents but there is a very nice smaller performance from Terrence Howard as a social worker trying to help missing kids and, surprisingly, a solid performance from Robin Williams as a conniving street-music pimp who houses a stable of young runaways who serve as his buskers. From the trailer I thought he'd be this musician with a heart of gold, kind of thing, but he's really quite the opposite and I like anything where he isn't trying to be so damn funny all the time. It's a nice dramatic performance from him, something I've wanted more and more from him ever since he blew me away in One Hour Photo. He's not quite as good as that flick, but still, much better than his recent offerings.

The best part of this whole damn thing, though, is the music itself. No matter how corny and terrible the metaphor they use for the music is, the music itself is pretty damn good and will make you a hell of a lot more emotional then anything else in this sap-fest. While they do have a story around the music (unlike friggin Once...), the story is just plain hokey and outdated and not worth your time.
THE EXTRAS
The only thing we get here are some Deleted Scenes and even those are weird. Almost every time I've seen deleted scenes on a disc, they were presented in the order they would've appeared in the movie. Apparently that sort of conformity is too much for this crew, as we get these scenes strewn about and out of order. Lame. There are 7 of them, clocking in at almost exactly 10 minutes long and they're really not that good. Boring.
THE VIDEO
The disc is one of those two-side deals, with the widescreen format, enhanced for 16x9 televisions, on one side and the fullscreen format, in the 1.33:1 aspect ratio, on the other side. I like these kinds of discs, though, because it fully illustrates why the fullscreen format is utterly useless, unless you have a tiny TV or an iPod or something.
THE AUDIO
The melodies and stuff can be heard nicely through the Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound format.
THE PACKAGE
Just like the movie itself, the cover lends itself to the sort of animated-style corniness of the flick. The cover has a shot of Rhys Myers and Russell embracing at the top, Highmore playing guitar at the bottom and the title card in the middle with this uber-corny globe in the background and mystical musical notes floating through the air. Gag. The back has a few random pics from the movie, a synopsis that is set in the middle of a shot of Rhys Meyers and Highmore, a small special features listing along with the billing block and tech specs. Pretty darn lame.
THE FINAL WORD
You shouldn't need a movie, or a sappy story like this to tell you about the power of music and its effects on people. While the music they do use here is done quite beautifully, the story they frame around it is far from beautiful. It's just plain bad.

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