Fools 'Rush' In to This One

Friday, November 23, 2007

"August Rush," a contemporary fairy tale by clumsy way of "Oliver Twist," follows the predictable cours e of August (Freddie Highmore), an orphan who waits beatifically for the day when he'll find his lost parents.

We've met his parents, an Irish rock singer called Louis (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) and Lyla (Keri Russell; see MovieMakers on Page 31), a classical cellist, and we've seen the "magical circumstances" that brought them together: essentially, a one-night stand on a New York rooftop under special-effect moonlight. And how they get involuntarily separated is just one of the almost unbearable contrivances that permeate this movie.

Escaping from his orphanage, August falls in with Wizard (Robin Williams at his corniest, and we include "Patch Adams"), a sideburned eccentric and small-time hustler who takes charge of a youthful gang of musically talented street urchins. Lo and behold, it turns out that August, a perfect blend of his parents, grows up with a prodigious sensitivity to the Musicality of Everything. He hears dulcet tones in every conceivable street noise, as we see and hear in endless, over-the-top montages. (Imagine the cheesy Hollywood version of "Dancer in the Dark.")

Intended as a fuzzy family fable, "August" plays more to the gag reflex than to the heart, especially when our little orphan starts playing the guitar like a virtuoso after what seems like a three-minute tutorial. The movie perpetuates the growing screen overexposure of Highmore, the central tyke in "Finding Neverland," "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," "Arthur and the Invisibles" and the upcoming "The Golden Compass."

-- Desson Thomson

August Rush PG, 114 minutes Contains mild language and violence. Area theaters.

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