Rock the Kasbah Review

Rock the Kasbah review.Rating: 

4.5 out of 10

Rock the Kasbah Cast: 

Bill Murray as Richie Lanz

Kate Hudson as Merci

Bruce Willis as Bombay Brian     

Zooey Deschanel as Ronnie

Scott Caan as Jake

Danny McBride as Nic       

Leem Lubany as Salima

Arian Moayed as Riza

Fahim Fazli as Tariq Khan

Taylor Kinney as Private Barnes

Kelly Lynch as Sylvia

Sarah Baker as Maureen

Eugenia Kuzmina as Gulla                       

Directed by Barry Levinson


Rock manager Richie Lanz (Bill Murray) has accepted an offer to bring his artist (and secretary) Ronnie (Zooey Deschanel) on a tour of Afghanistan, but when she deserts him, taking his wallet and passport, he’s forced to work with the locals to try to get home. While trying to make a deal with the natives, Lanz overhears a Pashtun girl singing in a cave and decides to take her to the finals of the local television singing competition “Afghan Star.”

Rock the Kasbah Analysis: 

In 1979, Steve Martin named his third album “Comedy Is Not Pretty.” If he were to realize at the time that his pal Bill Murray would still be doing his same schtick 35 years later in a movie as bad as “Rock the Kasbah,” he may have amended that statement to “Comedy is boring, lazy, offensively misogynistic and just not funny!”

Granted, doing comedy can be hard and political comedy even more so, but there’s maybe a few minutes into this new film from Rain Man director Barry Levinson when you’re thinking, “At least Bill Murray is here and maybe he’ll be able to save this one.” As it goes along, you start to realize that Murray’s nutty public behavior has extended to him being so loyal to his filmmaking friends, he would accept a role in such a badly thought-out movie like this one.

We meet Murray’s Richie Lanz back in his Van Nuys office while he listens to one prospective client who he cons out of her money before going to a gig by his talented secretary (Zooey Deschanel). One thing leads to another and they’re on their way to Kabul, Afghanistan to make a quick buck performing for the military.

Sure, Murray does his best to turn the character of Richie Lanz into another memorable one, but he’s not given much to work with from screenwriter Mitch Glazer, basically just a lot of references to ‘70s and ‘80s rock stars that Richie namedrops wherever he goes. And like other Murray characters, Richie basically does what Murray does best and that’s talk himself into and out of all sorts of situations, including a deal with two crooked ammo salesmen, played by Scott Caan and Danny McBride.

It’s an hour into the movie before it arrives at the plot point of Richie discovering native Pashtun girl Salima singing in a cave and convinces her to let him manage her to stardom, which in this case would entail her being the first woman to appear on the local television hit “Afghan Star.” Richie’s devotion to making Salima famous seems a little misguided since we’ve already learned that the winner of the show basically gets $5,000 US and Lanz’s 20% wouldn’t be enough to get him out of the situation.

The film feels even more misogynistic than the culture it’s trying to use as a background for humor with the only significant female character being Kate Hudson as a hooker named Merci. Hudson plays Merci with a bad Southern accent and in return is given priceless dialogue like the disturbing line, “I’ll f*ck you like a Mouseketeer on crack.” Apparently, that’s meant to be funny, but what does it mean? Does she mean like Justin Timberlake, Christina Aguillera or Brittany Spears when they were teenagers? Ew.

Bad one-liners like that permeate Rock the Kasbah and mostly fail to find laughs. Even Bruce Willis (another Levinson pal) shows up to play a mercenary who helps Richie, and even gets his own bad one-liner, “Do I look like a milkman?” (And believe me, that’s much funnier out of context than it is in context.) Even Zooey Deschanel’s character basically sings a little bit, awkwardly tries to act jetlagged on arriving in Afghanistan, quickly vanishes from the film and is never mentioned again. Considering how things falter after she’s gone, she’s actually missed.

The last act basically focuses more on Richie trying to manage Salima to an “Afghan Star” win (rather than trying to get out of Kabul), while causing all sorts of turmoil in the area, because the diehard Muslims don’t believe women should be allowed to sing. Just to drive the point home, the film closes with Salima singing “Peace Train” by Islamic mortal enemy Cat Stevens as one last ditch attempt to create change in the region. Who knows if it works, because the movie ends leaving you feeling dirty for trying to enjoy any part of it. (And giving a closing nod to the far superior doc Afghan Star just reminds us that we have the equally bad attempt at turning real world issues into humor with next week’s Our Brand is Crisis.)

The Bottom Line:

Bill Murray does his best to save a comedy that tries to be edgy without ever being socially relevant or even particularly funny. Rock the Kasbah isn’t horrible as much as it’s just horribly misguided.


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