Every time a movie musical comes out, the same old story surfaces about how the genre is dead. Then it's forgotten for several months till the next one comes along. While nobody breaks into spontaneous dance numbers, August Rush is very much a musical (though a backdoor one) that hits every sappy, no-dry-eye note in the familiar songbook.
August Rush is played by Freddy Highmore, a ruddy-cheeked moppet who bears an uncanny resemblance to a pint-sized Christian Bale. At first, the wide-eyed Rush is Evan, a ward of the state. He grew up in orphanages because his parents don't know he exists — he's the byproduct of a one-night tryst between scruffy Irish rocker Louis (Johnathn Rhys Meyers) and elegant concert cellist Lyla (Keri Russel), who met at a New York cocktail party. Through a series of unbelievable circumstances, Evan is separated at birth, yet never gives up hope that his rightful parents will retrieve him, despite a kindly social worker's (Terrance Howard) suggestion otherwise.
So, to avoid being placed in yet another home, he runs to the streets of NYC, where he falls in with a flock of runaways led by the tweaked-out hustler Wizard (Robin Williams). Sooner than you can say "Artful Dodger," Wiz christens the kid August Rush and turns him out on the streets to earn cash with his amazingly advanced guitar skills.
Seems Rush's a Mozart-level prodigy, a musical skill the Wiz's keen to exploit. As his unbelievably attractive (but dim) parents begin to piece together the puzzle about their lost child, the Wiz tightens his grip on the kid.
Not a moment of this exists in a believable universe, but the movie hugs its own fairytale nature and holds on for dear life. But there's a passion that prevents it from curdling from its own sweetness, and makes for a pleasant enough experience. The music is good, if forgettable, the actors are nice and the pictures are pretty enough to warm all but the coldest humbug hearts.
Musicals are often simply comfort food and — while this ain't a classic — every once in a while it's OK to believe in happy endings.
Corey Hall writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].