Rock the Kasbah
Starring Bill Murray, Kate Hudson, Bruce Willis, Zooey Deschanel, Leem Lubany
Screenwriter Mitch Glazer might have written one of the worst screenplays for a film released in 2015. Not only is Rock the Kasbah unfunny, but it drags the cast and deflated plot through Afghanistan in the most absurd and often offensive way. Once a go-to-director in the 90’s, Barry Levinson hasn’t had a hit in years, his last great film was Bandits (2001) with Bruce Willis and Cate Blanchett (who received a Golden Globe nomination for her performance). While Rock the Kasbah certainly caters to Bill Murray’s particular style of comedy, it never manages to find anything interesting to say.
For years Richie Lanz (Murray) has been conning wanna-be music artists out of money. They make his ears bleed with their voice, yet he tells them exactly what they want to hear, while taking their money. His latest scheme will take place in Kabul, where a young talented singer (Deschanel) should net him easy money as she sings cover songs to locals and military. A few hours in Afghanistan, Richie finds himself without a passport, money, and a singer. In his desperation, he discovers a Pashtun girl, Salima (Lubany), in the mountains that has the voice he has been looking for his entire life. Richie will risk his life to get this girl in front of important eyes and ears on the Afghan Star musical talent show with the help of a hooker (Hudson) and a mercenary (Willis).
It’s hard for me to imagine any version of this script being read, followed by a producer thinking this would be a good idea for a movie.
Nearly the entire film Lantz and Murray project Richie Lanz as this greedy, sleaze-ball, telling stories about discovering Madonna, being head-butted by Stevie Nicks. There comes a moment in the film where Lantz must become a better person, tell the truth, come clean. Yet I couldn’t tell if this moment was being played for laughs, irony or both, because surely we weren’t expected to believe anything he said prior. The characters act as if it’s an epiphany, which just felt more insulting. From the very first scene we see Rock the Kasbah as a self-fulfilling concept story, where Lanz will have a radical change through extreme circumstances, and help someone in need along the way. Yet you hope, on this predictable journey, there will be creativity, laughs and entertainment. Instead the dialogue is as dusty as the desert and the performances are flat.
It’s hard for me to imagine any version of this script being read, followed by a producer thinking this would be a good idea for a movie. Murray has become so uninteresting to watch outside of Wes Anderson’s projects. He and the writer make the viewer miserable watching a film that instead of using the difficulties of a country with strict views and customs, just deliver offensive cultural jokes. Hudson, Willis and the few scenes with Deschanel have their minor characters so disconnected with the plot of the film, it’s clear their appearance is only a courtesy to Levinson.
A miserable, unfunny, and offensive experience for the viewer.