'August Rush' is a magical fantasy following a young boy as he tries to reconnect with parents who don't know he exists. Eleven-year-old Evan (Highmore) has lived in an orphanage since he was a baby, but somehow he always felt his parents were out there looking for him. He wants to find them, but when social worker Richard Jeffries (Howard) suggests that he instead try and find a new foster family, he runs away.
Rewind 11 years and we meet classically trained cellist Lyla (Russell) and rock singer Louis (Rhys Meyers), who have both escaped parties to sit in New York's Washington Square. In a truly cringeworthy scene, Louis seduces Lyla with his dodgy Irish brogue and musical talent.
The next morning she is shepherded off by her overbearing father, and they have no way of contacting one another. Months later, a heavily pregnant Lyla is involved in a minor car accident, after which she is informed by her father that she has lost her child. In reality, he has put it up for adoption so she can concentrate on her career. Scarred by the loss, she gives up playing music and becomes a teacher. Louis is similarly affected and turns to an unfulfilling career in business.
Back to the present day, Evan is adrift in New York City. He 'follows the music' and meets a talented, streetwise musician, Arthur (Thomas), who brings him to a condemned theatre where Wizard (Williams) has assembled a hotchpotch of street performers to busk and hand over their hard earned dollars to him.
When Wizard discovers that Evan is a musical prodigy, he renames him 'August Rush' and sets about taking advantage of the boy's talent. Meanwhile, Louis and Lyla end up back in New York, but will the three manage to cross paths?
The suspension of disbelief is key to enjoying the film, especially in the Central Park finale, but it definitely won't appeal to even the mildest of cynics.
The chemistry between Myers and Russell never convinces, and Williams is annoying and over-the-top as the manipulative Wizard. Highmore is the most likeable as sweet and kind Evan, and manages to underplay the sappier parts of the film.
While music plays a central role in the film, the score is disappointingly bland and schmaltzy, although the melding together of street sounds in New York is sometimes successful. This is not enough to save a film that painfully strikes a bum note.