‘August Rush’ misses more than one beat

The new film featuring ‘Neverland’s’ Freddie Highmore lacks depth.

Stephanie Dickrell

.”All you have to do is listen,” says August Rush, the 11-year-old orphan who uses music to search for his long-lost parents. His music permeates the holiday friendly “August Rush,” without which the whole show would be completely lost to a lukewarm storyline and uninspiring acting.

“August Rush”

DIRECTED BY: Kirsten Sheridan
STARRING: Freddie Highmore, Keri Russell, Robin Williams
RATED: PG
PLAYING AT: Area Theaters

The title character, August Rush (Freddie Highmore), is an orphan, supposedly given up for adoption by his parents, but who had an unfaltering belief that they will come looking for him someday. He tries to connect with them through music, and when he runs away from the boys’ home where he has spent the first 11 years of his life, he discovers that his musical talent reaches beyond his imagination.

Meanwhile, his parents – a cellist and a rock band member (Keri Russell and Jonathan Rhys Meyers) – are still mourning the loss of their love in different parts of the country, having given up their music. In one way or another, they are drawn back to New York City, the site of their one-night stand, where August is wistfully playing guitar on street corners attempting to get their attention.

To add twists to the plotline and to perhaps provide explanation on how an 11-year-old can survive alone on the streets of New York City, August falls in with a group of musically inclined street urchins, headed up by the Wizard (Robin Williams), who ensures a place to sleep and meals – bought and paid for with “family money” or the tips the kids earn basking on the street.

A social worker, (Terrence Howard), a Reverend, and a homeless little girl are all cheering for and helping August at different points in the film, providing another line of support, and at times, moving along the hard-to-believe storyline.

The film’s basis, a one-night stand between August’s parents Lyla and Louis, is a shoddy foundation for the film. The entire love story consists of three sentences and one short moonlit scene, which cuts directly to the morning after.

Lyla, soon to be August’s mother, called it “the most romantic night of my life.” Lyla and Louis spend 10 years recovering from the passion of one night that any teenager could have recreated from their first middle school boyfriend. Russell’s and Rhys Meyers’ characters remain cardboard cut-outs who could have been given a little more consideration.

Freddie Highmore’s performance as August Rush is sometimes sweet and innocent but often verges on the creepy, more reminiscent of devil-incarnate Damian from “The Omen” than the musical genius orphan looking for his parents.

His doggedly relentless pursuit of the parents he knows are out there are pathetic to everyone but him, and sometimes even the audience, except we already know what happens. He happens to live in this imaginary bubble where in the middle of New York City nothing bad happens, except perhaps meeting the leech Wizard.

The real-scene stealer in this flick is Jamia Simone Nash, who plays Hope, a little girl who doesn’t have many lines but manages to steal the show both with her convincing attitude, mistakenly calling August a “prod” like Mozart, only to be corrected: It’s “prodigy.” Also, her musical talent is real. This 11-year-old channels the voice of a thirty-year-old gospel singer. Her true musical talent remains hidden next to the contrast of August’s made-up reality, where he composes his first rhapsody at 11. But Nash’s voice is real, and with any hope, she will be heading somewhere.

In addition to the lackluster performances that don’t quite make it, the film’s montages based on August’s internal music give the film a claustrophobic feel, relying on too many tight shots one after the other, creating a dizzying effect.

The music might be this film’s only crowning achievement, as well as director Kirsten Sheridan’s ability to portray the music visually. With a little push, the film could have been substantial, but as is, it remains on the edge of greatness, a little too disconnected, and a little too careless.