Rock the Kasbah
By Liz Casanova
Starring Bill Murray, Bruce Willis, Zooey Deschanel, Kate Hudson, Danny McBride, Scott Caan, Taylor Kinney and Leem Lubany
Written by Mitch Glazer
Directed by Barry Levinson
Running time 100 min
MPAA rating R
Selig Film Rating Dollar
Perhaps an unlikely place to find a magnificent singing voice is in the middle of the Afghanistan desert. But in Rock the Kasbah, the shifty American promoter Richie Lanz (Bill Murray) has no choice but to go with his gut. After a failed attempt to persuade his receptionist and main talent Ronnie (Zooey Deschanel) that the show must go on in the war-torn country, he finds himself stranded, a stranger in a strange land. He has no money, no passport and every time he steps out of his third-world hotel, there is that possibility of getting shot or blown to pieces.
But like a good talent promoter, Richie is resourceful. He soon finds a group of American vigilantes led by Bombay (Bruce Willis), Nick (Danny McBride) and Jake (Scott Caan). They offer him the opportunity to make some money and get back the necessary documents to fly back home. However, he soon discovers that it's not an easy task and instead is lured by the songstress Salima (Leem Lubany) he finds in a cave. The promoter in him prefers the idea of making Salima a star on the American Idol-like show Afghan Star. And so the task begins to defy a country's traditions and come out alive.
Rock the Kasbah is absurd and funny, mostly because Murray is his charming self. Like in Lost in Translation, he excels at playing the fish out of water. He slips into the borderline shady character but has the ability to have an underlying tenderness. Yes, he scams untalented people for money, but he also is 100 percent committed to the singers he believes in. And apparently women are drawn to him. Take the hooker with the heart of gold, Merci (with an "i") played by Kate Hudson, that isn't really going to have a happy ending. But it highlights that Richie is also kind of a hooker with a heart of gold.
It's a compelling story of a young Afghan girl who loves to sing but risks her life to follow her dream. Her village and even the country opposes the idea. It is based on the true story of a Pashtun woman who was the first to sing on Afghan Star.
Perhaps the downfall of the movie is there is not enough attention to Salima's story. Instead, the film is really "The Bill Murray Show." And that's great if Murray is your crack. But this was an opportunity to have a more complex and dynamic relationship between him and the talented singer. It is at times a little predictable. The relationships between the girl and other characters, like her father, could have been a little more developed to for that needed layer, especially towards the end of the film.
Still, it's not intolerable. Murray, and a nice supporting role by Willis, keeps this movie funny and alive.