“Last night I heard a girl singing. This has got to be fate,” says Richie Lanz (Bill Murray), a down-on-his-luck music manager stuck in Afghanistan after his client, Ronnie (Zooey Deschanel), leaves him high and dry with no passport or money in the comedy movie, Rock the Kasbah.
Upon arriving in Afghanistan where his client will be the opening act of a USO tour, Lanz finds himself dealing with an emotionally stressed-out Ronnie who can’t handle being in a country in the middle of a war and who ends up stealing all his money and his passport, leaving him no way to get back to the States. With no immediate help in sight, Lanz meets two Americans, Jake (Scott Caan) and Nick (Danny McBride), who help supply things such as weapons and ammo to different tribes for a price. Fortunately for Lanz, they are friendly, hard-partying guys who offer to help him out.
In exchange for the money to get home, Lanz is charged with making a delivery for Jake and Nick. They ask him to take ammunition to a tribe in the middle of the desert, and Lanz actually impresses the tribe’s chief and gets invited back to the village to have dinner and spend the night. Later that night Lanz can’t sleep and takes off for a walk in the desert to take in the night air. He hears the most beautiful female singing voice and traces it to a cave. The voice belongs to the lovely Salima (Leem Lubany), the chief’s daughter who it turns out sneaks out at night to watch the country’s equivalent to American Idol: Afghan Star. After being discovered by Lanz, Salima runs back to her tribe’s village so as not to get caught out alone at night by her father. Convinced that all the terrible events that have happened to him since he got to Afghanistan have occurred so he could discover Salima’s exceptional voice, Lanz now sets out to try to persuade Salima’s father to allow her to go to Kabul to perform and compete on Afghan Star. The problem: her religion and culture forbid women to sing in public.
Directed by Barry Levinson (Good Morning, Vietnam, Rain Man), Rock the Kasbah is an uneven, disjointed mess of a film with few laughs. The performances, if you really want to call them that, are uninspired. And in the case of one particular actor, the lack of effort is glaringly obvious.
Bill Murray is well cast as the schlock music manager still looking to find a way into representing big time talent while making a quick buck at some unsuspecting, untalented poor soul’s expense. (He charges “up and coming talent” to represent them while never really doing anything for them.) Still, the dialogue and monologues Murray delivers are weak and have little comedic value. For an actor who has delivered so many great comedic performances in hilarious films such as Ghostbusters, Groundhog Day, Stripes, and Caddyshack, this is without a doubt one of the most forgettable and unfunny performances Murray has given in his career.
Kate Hudson is horribly miscast as Merci, the stunning prostitute who is also at times Lanz’ muse and business partner. She has zero chemistry with Murray and just seems completely out of place in the film. Bruce Willis as Bombay Brian, a gun-running mercenary for hire, seems to be trying to get ready for a glare-off showdown with Clint Eastwood. All he does in the film is stand around and glare at Murray, the camera, and off into space. He does deliver one of the few funny lines in the film that managed to generate a few chuckles, but other than that one line of dialogue it’s a huge waste of a truly talented actor.
The only redeeming part of the film is in the first 25 minutes when Murray and Deschanel, who have solid chemistry together, are traveling to, landing in, and trying to get settled in Afghanistan. The scene on the plane with Murray trying to calm down Ronnie by telling her an old story of his managing a rock star back in the day while she keeps crying and vomiting into her air sickness bag is one of the few funny scenes in the film that actually works.
With the waste of a talented cast, an uneven script, and almost no laughs, Rock the Kasbah is sure to be the big comedy disappointment of the year. Here’s hoping moviegoers miss it all together.
MPAA Rating: R for language including sexual references, some drug use and brief violence
Release Date: October 23, 2015
Running Time: 100 minutes
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