Yet the actors, especially 11-year-old Freddie Highmore (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Finding Neverland), give it all they've got. And if you've a taste for treacle, you'll root for them and against the Faginesque street stalker named Wizard (Robin Williams), who exploits August (the stage name of Highmore's character) and other young ragamuffins.
The film is fueled by its high-octane music, composed by Mark Mancina, who blends ambient sound with gospel, classical and rock.
With its musical themes for individual characters that come together symphonically at the climax, the music is so persuasive (certainly more than this Dickensian narrative) that it carries the narrative rather than complementing it. Keri Russell and Jonathan Rhys Meyers are on hand as August's progenitors, lost and lonely wandering Washington Square. Terrence Howard plays New York's most compassionate social worker.
August Rush **(Out of four stars)
Directed by Kirsten Sheridan, written by Nick Castle and James V. Hart. With Freddie Highmore, Keri Russell, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Robin Williams and Terrence Howard. Distributed by Warner Bros.
Running Time: 1 hour, 40 mins.
Parents' Guide: PG (Dickensian thematic elements, appropriate for children 8 and up)
Playing at: area theaters
Contact movie critic Carrie Rickey at 215-854-5402 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read her blog, "Flickgrrl," at http://go.philly.com/flickgrrl/.