"I believe in music the way some people believe in fairy tales," says young Evan at the beginning of August Rush.
And thus we know that we're in for a magical fairy tale of a story, with a twist of Oliver and a lot of fun music.
In this contemporary, Dickensian tale, we first meet Evan at the orphanage where he has lived for "eleven years and 16 days." He's been counting. Music is sewn into the fiber of Evan's being. It's a gift from his parents, Lyla (a cellist) and Louis (an Irish rocker.) "Once upon a time, they fell in love," Evan tells us. They did, and Evan (later redubbed "August Rush" by the Fagin-like Wizard with whom he goes to live) was the result of their one night together. Separated by circumstances and Lyla's deceitful father, neither of them initially knows that Evan is out there somewhere (I don't want to spoil the unfolding of the story for you with details, details) but they know, somehow, that they have to find each other. The power and magic of music is what will bring them back together. And Evan knows it.
Keri Russell is appropriately luminous as Lyla (and later, so convincingly desperate to find her son) and Jonathan Rhys Meyers is appropriately tortured and dreamy as Louis. Freddie Highmore is just so perfectly cute that I could scoop him up from that orphanage and adopt him myself. Robin Williams is more than creepy and dangerous as Wizard.
My one little quibble (here's the Catholic mom in me) is that I would have loved it if Lyla and Louis's beginnings had been more classically a fairy tale. I would have had them secretly married (secretly, of course, because Lyla's controlling father would never let his classical cellist marry a rocker. And, since we're suspending all kinds of disbelief anyway, we could also suspend our disbelief that in the age of Google two people could remain separated for 11 years and 16 days without being able to track each other down) and then we could avoid explaining a one-night stand to children, so do take that into account if you're considering this one for the family. Though this particular one-night stand was magically redeemed by True Love, there's the problem of romanticizing what, in reality was a chance meeting of two people who didn't know the first thing about each other. Fodder for good conversation with kids old enough to understand.
Anne-with-an-e, Betsy and I loved this movie. Anne has already bought the soundtrack and I'm pretty sure the dvd is on someone's wish list. Magic, romance, danger, impossible obstacles to overcome, the king searching for his queen, and the lost, little prince finding lasting happiness ... August Rush has it all.