A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this emotional is fairly good family entertainment, with sexual content at a minimum and lots of warmth and great musicianship. That said, there is a bit of violence (a man flashes a knife at children), some social drinking, and a few iffy words ("damn," "pissed," etc.). And since the first half of the movie relies on lots of flashbacks -- which could be confusing for younger kids -- it's probably a better pick for tweens and teens.
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What's the story?
Ah, young love. It's the heady cocktail that entwines two young musicians -- Irish singer-guitarist Louis (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) and reserved, brilliant cellist Lyla (Keri Russell) -- in this imperfect-but-winning film. After meeting cute in Greenwich Village, they spend the night together. But morning brings the harsh glare of sunlight -- and reality: Lyla is whisked away by her protective father (William Sadler), never to see Louis again. Nine months later, when a pregnant Lyla winds up in the hospital after an accident, she's told that the baby she and Louis conceived that night has died. Only he hasn't. Instead, Evan (Freddie Highmore) is sent to a home for wayward boys, where he pines for his parents, believing he can will them to find him through his music. (He's a prodigy, able to tap into the harmonies of nature -- grass rustling, wind howling -- and command new instruments the moment he picks them up.) So when they fail to materialize at the dreary institution's doorsteps, he sets out to look for them. And with the help of a social worker (Terrence Howard), and the propulsive force of his music, he just might.
Is it any good?
AUGUST RUSH proudly wears its heart on its sleeve. Despite the lows -- and there are lows -- you just know there will be a happy ending. Allegorical and not altogether literal, the movie is part musical and part fantasy, a combo that doesn't always quite mesh. But the stars -- particularly Highmore and Russell -- are charming, and so innocent that you can almost believe a story like this could happen in real life. However Robin Williams strikes the wrong chord as Wizard, an aging busker, who, Fagin-like, rounds up a bunch of musically inclined street urchins, encourages them to play, then keeps much of their take at the end of the day. (Evan takes up with them, and it's Wizard who renames him August Rush.) With his hat and swagger, Williams seems to be channeling Bono by way of Saturday Night Live. The effect is humorous, but not for the right reasons; you keep expecting him to go off on one of his riffs to signal that he's joking.
August Rush does a great job of establishing the connection between Evan and his mother; in two separate scenes, they discuss how many days they've been apart, using nearly the same syntax. But there doesn't appear to be the same bond between Evan and his father (though seeing them play guitar together is somewhat moving). Director Kirsten Sheridan draws the link between Louis and Lyla much more clearly, making their coupling seem completely inevitable and, consequently, dreamy and meant-to-be. (Just like the movie's happy ending...)
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what kind of movie this is -- is it a drama? A fantasy? Both? How can you tell? Do you expect a movie like this to be realistic? Families can also discuss how the movie portrays music. Does it really have the power to connect people? To heal their wounds? Why? Can you think of other movies that depict music's enormous, and sometimes magical, reach? And, last but not least, what can viewers learn from how Evan keeps believing in a kinder, gentler world, despite his background and everything that happens to him? What's the big lesson here?
- In theaters: November 21, 2007
- On DVD or streaming: March 10, 2008
- Cast: Freddie Highmore, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Keri Russell
- Director: Kirsten Sheridan
- Studio: Warner Bros.
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Music and Sing-Along
- Run time: 113 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: some thematic elements, mild violence and language.
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