To enjoy Rock the Kasbah it’s necessary to realize that Bill Murray will probably play a variation of the same character for the rest of his days.
Audiences will have to decide whether it’s a case of “been there, seen that” or if they want to latch on and revel in the performance of yet another curmudgeon.
Kasbah, which opens Friday (Oct. 23), is kind of a half way kind of thing. In some instances, Bill Murray, playing a down-on-his-luck, would-be rock ‘n’ roll manager, proves irresistible. In other cases, he’s insufferable. The result with this Barry Levinson flick is an uneven experience with story problems that strain the limits of credibility.
On the page Kasbah probably sounded like a good idea. In execution, however, it’s a bit of a slog. OK, it’s a major slog for much of its trek and no amount of Murray and a stellar cast that includes Zooey Deschanel, Kate Hudson and Bruce Willis can save it.
Murray plays Richie Lanz, a guy who’s pretty much a stereotype. He’s divorced. He’s lived and played hard. He’s behind on child support and he’s on the lookout for a way to make a quick buck.
He envisions that coming through his assistant (Deschanel) who once had dreams of being a rock star that were promptly squashed after hooking up with Lanz. That’s until a USO concert promoter actually books the talent-challenged lady to play in Afghanistan and thereby giving Lanz a payday. She barely survives the flight and flees home ASAP.
That leaves Richie in Afghanistan with no passport, no cash and no hope. In some convoluted fashion, he ends up entangled with American arms dealers which leads him to the gist of the story. While making a deal with Pashtuns (an Afghan ethnic group) for bullets, and during the process discovers that the group’s daughter sings like a combination of Cat Stevens and Karen Carpenter.
He decides to enter her in Afghanistan Star, that country’s version of American Idol. Yes, there’s a slight problem: she’s a devout Muslim, raised by a devout father and singing for her is considered a no-no. Of course, it’s up to Lanz to work everything out – he hopes to his advantage.
Murray’s got no new tricks with this role. Lanz has his charms, but not quite enough to make you believe that Hudson, who stars as a prostitute, willingly beds him for free. The film basically is a hot mess with the only thoroughly enjoyable aspect of the film comes in the person of Leem Lubany as Salima, his young protégé.
Levinson, whose last really good films – Sleepers and Wag the Dog – released in the late ’90s, gives us little to chew on here. The concept, overall, proves compelling, but sloppy execution takes care of that quickly.
Movie: Rock the Kasbah
Director: Barry Levinson
Cast: Bill Murray, Kate Hudson, Bruce Willis, Scott Caan, Danny McBride, Leem Lubany
Studio: Open Road Films
Rated: R for language including sexual references, some drug use and brief violence
Running time: 100 minutes
Check for theaters and showtimes at Atlas Cinemas, Cleveland Cinemas, Fandango.com and MovieTickets.com