Rock the Kasbah: Film Review
Cast: Bill Murray, Zooey Deschanel, Bruce Willis, Kate Hudson, Scott Caan, Danny McBride
Director: Barry Levinson
If you ever wanted to see a film with Bill Murray trussed to a bed, bedecked in a blonde wig and wearing a diaper, then Barry Levinson's latest is for you.
Murray plays washed up verging-on-con-man music manager Richie Lanz who spends his days listening to awful karaoke singers and promising them the world in return for cash. But his world turns around when he takes his last remaining client (Zooey Deschanel) on a USO tour of Afghanistan, believing fame and fortune lie around the corner.
However, having been ripped off and left without any means of escape from Afghanistan, Richie has to try and turn his fortunes around to make it out alive - and things get more complicated when, for the first time in his life, he discovers a genuine talent. Could his shot at redemption also be his undoing as he travels to Kabul to get his female singer on Afghan Star?
If you're expecting a hoot-a-moment film from the man who cocked a snook at the armed forces with the Adrian Cronauer story in Good Morning, Vietnam, then Rock The Kasbah is not the film for you.
It lurches wildly between tones as it negotiates a lunatic sensibility with a social commentary - and not always entirely successfully. Murray brings his usual deadpan laconic stylings to the table and there's just something about this rapscallion and his louche outlook that gets you on side. Certainly, in parts, Murray looks like he's having a blast.
The rest of the supporting cast don't fare as well - Hudson gets some extra time in the final furlong as the Armed forces tart-with-a-heart (even if one scene looks quite obviously like it was re-shot and re-scripted); Caan and McBride make the most of their extended cameos as black-market dealers - and even Willis shows up to whisper some lines before slinking off into the sand dunes of both the desert and the movie, only to reappear when dramatic fortune requires him to do so.
Equally, the film's sensibilities border on abrasive too, with the sentiment that Lanz can do whatever he wants with his client simply because he's American. Want to ride roughshod over years of cultural issues and oppression of women without any consequence? Sure, then Lanz is your man - and the script crassly precipitates this with Lanz getting his way for Afghan Star. Granted, it's morally questionable and perhaps a tighter script or a neater plotting of the arc could have helped, but this last third push within the film rankles and feels grossly awkward despite Murray's innate charm propelling it along.
That's the main problem with Rock The Kasbah; its tonal inconsistencies end up providing a patchy affair that's scrappy and amusing in equal measures. As the Clash remarked, the Shareef don't like it - and for large parts of this film thanks to its cultural awkwardness, if you'll forgive the pithiness, neither did I.