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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Poverty > Adoption > Music > Melodrama > August Rush (HD-DVD/DVD Combo Format; Warner Home Video)

August Rush (HD-DVD/DVD Combo Format; Warner Home Video)


Picture: B+/C+     Sound: B+/B-     Extras: C-     Film: C



Note: This film is also available in the Blu-ray format.



Many films want to be about music, use too much of it and usually pick bad music to add.  Even when they get good songs, they place the recordings in the wrong places or give us bad remakes thereof.  When they try to add the idea of music to the music, you get disasters like Xanadu, sent up so well in a recent stage musical revival.  Kirsten Sheridan has been moving into an odd music direction, though her last film Disco Pigs (reviewed elsewhere on this site) was in 2001, or six years ago.  Now, she is finally following up with August Rush (2007) about a young orphan boy whose ability to hold onto music helps him survive.


The idea is interesting and had plenty of potential, but the film goes from promising to highly problematic and worse as the script quickly runs out of character study, ideas, goes for formula, illicit appeals to pity and collapses into a downright embarrassment.  Of course, you can watch the film and hold onto the first reel, but that is just not being honest.


Freddie Highmore (making the “kids movie” rounds and a good actor at least) is Evan Taylor, a picked-on outcast at an orphanage who loves music and has a profound connection to it.  His first chance to leave comes in the form of a social worker (Terrence Howard) who tries to reach out.  When Evan gets to New York City, he misses the man, gets caught up with a street singer and after a few more dumb moments deals with a Fagin-type of character played by Robin Williams (Hook) who gives one of the most unintentionally shrill and lame performances of his career.


Unfortunately for the film, Hook co-writers are the main writers of this mess and as with the attempt at magic in the Spielberg film, they just make mud, but this is far worse.  To paraphrase one of our writers, mud pies are more like it.  This includes a contrived love affair between a singer and debutante (Johnathan Rhys Meyers and Keri Russell, in their first film together since Mission: Impossible III?) and that gets off to a phony, tired start with a lame moment where they see the moon clearly and someone else is playing Van Morrison’s classic hit Moondance on his guitar.  (Insert Match Game buzzer noise here.)  Then Meyers starts to sing to it!!!


(Five more Match Game buzzes here!)


Then it gets cornier and more melodramatic in the worst way.  Sometimes, it is like a very bad remake of Hook, but on the cheap, short and automatic pilot.  The actors do try, but the more it goes on, the more it falls apart.  Amazingly, some people bought this, though it bombed at the box office.  However, it just might become some kind of dumb cult film.  However, it will give us all new respect for Castle’s 1979 romp Skatetown, U.S.A., which was far more sincere and believable by comparison.



The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image was shot in Super 35mm film by Director of Photography John Mathieson, who has lensed Ridley Scott’s films of late.  The film looks good and he is good with subtle lighting (see K-PAX, reviewed elsewhere on this site) and he is one of the only reasons anyone is talking about this film at all.  The HD side of this Combo disc has the same early flaw that the anamorphically enhanced DVD side (which has poor Video Black and other detail and depth problems that make it no match for the HD side) has in an opening shot of the sun that has its natural concentric circle pattern on the lens degraded in a digital way.  We saw this before on the Blu-ray, but not HD-DVD, of Training Day (in separate reviews on this site) that we can also call the “sun circle problem” that should not be in either version.  The transfer has lesser, but equally noticeable snags like this and we doubt the Blu-ray does not.


The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix is not as all-the-way as similar recent film fare (like the even more obnoxious Across The Universe) in sound design, but is good and can even be interesting, though Mark Mancina’s score is a very mixed mater.  The Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 version on the HD side and Dolby Digital 5.1 version on the DVD side are not as good in that descending order.  The better sound moments help, though.


Deleted scenes of mixed interest are the only extras.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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