Although the film is not particularly original, features a premise outside the realm of believability, and proves itself a bit sappy at times, I did walk away from AUGUST RUSH ($29) with a positive, entertained feeling. AUGUST RUSH is a cinematic fable that borrows fairly liberally from Charles Dickens Oliver Twist to tell its tale of an orphaned, modern day Mozart trying to find his parents through his unique gift of music. Telling basically two stories, AUGUST RUSH moves back and forth between the boy’s quest to find his parents, as well as the parents search for themselves, and ultimately, their search for a child they never knew they had.
Freddie Highmore is a charmer as the orphaned Evan Taylor, who believes he can hear his long missing parents through musical gift that they have imparted to him. Also able to hear music everywhere he goes, Evan leaves the torment of the orphanage behind and begins an odyssey in New York City, where he believes he will find his parents. However, instead of his parents, Evan encounters a band of homeless, adolescent street musicians, along with their Fagin-esque leader, who goes by the moniker of Wizard (Robin Williams).
Although Evan has never played an instrument in his life, he proves himself to be a musical progeny beyond all reckoning, picking up a guitar and teaching himself to play in a matter of hours. Although Wizard tries to profit Evan’s talent and even gives him the stage name of "August Rush," our boy progeny’s talents magically transport him to Julliard, where he begins a more formal musical education and continues his search. AUGUST RUSH also stars Keri Russell as the classically trained cellist and Jonathan Rhys Meyers as the rock musician from whose love and talent young Evan sprang. The supporting cast also features Terrence Howard, William Sadler, Marian Seldes, Leon G. Thomas III, Mykelti Williamson, Aaron Staton, Alex O'Loughlin, Jamia Simone Nash and Ronald Guttman.
Warner Home Video has made AUGUST RUSH available on DVD in a 2.40:1 wide screen presentation that features the anamorphic enhancement for 16:9 displays. A full screen version is included on the opposite side of the disc, but is not reviewed here. The standard definition DVD presentation holds up very well against its hi-def counterpart, displaying good levels of sharpness and detail. Hues are nicely saturated, but are not overblown. Flesh tones are natural looking. Blacks are deep, whites are clean and contrast is just fine. The elements from which AUGUST RUSH appear just about perfect, with nary a blemish or fault to be seen. Mild grain is present. On a big screen display, digital compression artifacts are more noticeable than one might like, but they are not as prominent as they have been on some other recent titles.
AUGUST RUSH comes to DVD with a solid Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack. It is during the film’s musical moments that the sound design and the soundtrack really come to life, while non-musical moments are more subdued, demonstrating the characteristics of standard talky drama. Sound effects are convincingly rendered, but are used sparingly, except where the sound effects become part of the musical compositions inside the main character’s head. Musical fidelity is good, but a little thinner than what is present on the Blu-ray release. Dialogue is cleanly rendered and easy to understand. French and Spanish language tracks are also encoded onto the disc, as are English, French and Spanish subtitles.
Music underscores the basic interactive menus, which allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as seven Deleted Scenes.
AUGUST RUSH isn’t a perfect movie, but it has a lot of entertaining and satisfying qualities. Warner’s DVD offers a solid standard definition presentation.
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