In this respect, "August Rush" is on another level. We need to break out a whole new definition of cheesiness for a film like this, augmented by fake tears and vomit gestures.
"August Rush" begins with a boy (Freddie Highmore) standing in an open field where the surrounding sounds -- the wind, the trees, the grass -- swirl like a symphony in his head. In a whispering voice-over, he says: "I believe in music the way that some people believe in fairy tales."
"August Rush" thus proceeds in fairy-tale fashion, though it's more unrealistic than surrealistic. Without any tangible evidence, our protagonist senses his parents are still alive and that he just needs to make music loud enough so they can hear him (sort of like the ethos behind a Coldplay album).
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Wide-eyed and impossibly innocent, this bite-sized Mozart embarks on a journey to find his parents with messianic certainty. He sneaks from his orphanage, where social worker Richard Jeffries (Terrence Howard) is hoping to place him with a family, to New York City, where he soon picks up the name August Rush.
Meanwhile, interspersed flashbacks fill in his parents' story. His mother (Keri Russell) and father (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) met on one fateful evening 12 years earlier when they were both drawn to a lone street musician playing Van Morrison's "Moondance" at the arch in New York's Washington Square Park. It leads to a single night of romance for these two: one a classical cellist, the other an Irish rocker (you can guess who's who).
Fate keeps the couple from meeting again, though Russell's character ends up pregnant. Illogical circumstances and an absurdly overbearing father lead her to think the baby was lost during birth, so just over a decade later, she and her past lover are living lonely, separate lives.
2 Really, all you really need to know about "August Rush" is that Robin Williams plays a street musician named Wizard. Dressed like Bono and working as what amounts to a pimp for child street musicians, Williams' wacky and creepy character is his biggest misstep since putting on a clown nose for "Patch Adams."
Rush soon falls in with Wizard and proves to be a music prodigy, beginning with playing guitar in a strange banging fashion that (impossibly) produces refined sounds. Eventually, his gift for music leads him to bigger stages and the chance for a family reunion.
The lesson of such triteness, though, is possibly dangerous. If any young parentless child were to take "August Rush" seriously, he or she would almost certainly wind up deluded by the most unlikely of dreams, and making a terrible racket, besides.
"August Rush" was directed by the Irish filmmaker Kirsten Sheridan, who was nominated for an Oscar with her father, Jim Sheridan, for penning the screenplay to 2002's "In America." She has seemingly only soaked up the most sentimental aspects of her father's work, which includes "My Left Foot" and "In the Name of the Father."
If you're looking for a film more honest about music (also starring an Irish rocker), you're better off with "Once," the sensational indie flick from earlier this year. And if you'd still like to see Russell, a talented and fragile young actress, as a knocked-up young mother, rent her 2007 film "Waitress," soon out on DVD.
Both of those movies manage to hit warm notes without tossing out reality in the process.
"August Rush," a Warner Bros. Pictures release, is rated PG for some thematic elements, mild violence and language. Running time: 112 minutes. Half a star out of four.
By Jake Coyle