“Rock the Kasbah” was released theatrically yesterday across the country through Open Road Films.
Richie Lanz (Bill Murray) is a music manager past his prime: once a big shot twenty and thirty years ago and currently a has-been in the modern age. He spends his days conning people into thinking he’s going to turn them into a big music star. Richie thinks he catches the break he’s so desperately desired for so long when he’s offered a tour of Afghanistan with current client Ronnie (Zooey Deschanel) and is promised to make a hefty sum of money.
Richie is left stranded in Afghanistan after Ronnie bails with all of his money and passport. The Embassy of the United States informs Richie that it will take two weeks to get him home. Richie decides to leave his fate in the hands of a lady of the night known as Merci (Kate Hudson) and ammunition dealers Jake (Scott Caan) and Nick (Danny McBride). This leads Richie to Kabul where he is introduced to Afghan Star; Afghanistan’s version of American Idol. He discovers what he believes will be the winner of the televised competition; the voice of a young Afghan girl named Salima (Leem Lubany).
“Rock the Kasbah” is an incoherent mess. The performance of Bill Murray is all you have to fall back on to make this a worthwhile experience and it just isn’t enough to make this comedy memorable. So many actors show up as characters who disappear as soon as they’re introduced. Zooey Deschanel just starts to gain momentum when she’s never seen again and you keep expecting to see Scott Caan and Danny McBride again, but they take their leave right when they’re characters get interesting.
The actors who stick around leave you dumbfounded. Did we really need to sit through another film where Bruce Willis is cranky and vulgar yet again? Why Kate Hudson took the role as Merci is also beyond comprehension unless it was just an excuse to travel, work with this cast, and show off her body.
The film consistently drops storylines without ever referencing them again like how you don’t get much background on Richie’s divorce or his daughter other than at the beginning of the film. Richie’s scramble to find a way back to the United States is brushed under the rug in order to give more time to Salima and Afghan Star. It becomes rather frustrating with the disappearing act and revolving door of recognizable actors in the film being combined with how jagged and uneven the storytelling of “Rock the Kasbah” is.
This isn’t going to steal any thunder from your favorite Bill Murray performance, but his unmatched charisma, unusual body language, and humorous reactions save the comedy from being a complete uncontrollable disaster. The Danielle Steele conversation he has with Bombay Brian (Bruce Willis) is incredibly funny and Richie’s sexual exploits with Merci is hilarious , but it’s Murray’s shameless massacre of “Smoke on the Water” that is easily the highlight of the film’s 100-minute duration. The writing reaches its one high point when Salima tells Richie that there’s a candle in his heart and a void in his soul. That analogy is unfortunately the best the writing of the film gets.
“Rock the Kasbah” is riddled with plot holes, drags in the middle, and fails to understand how to properly develop its own characters. Bill Murray is as fantastic as ever, but even his amusing escapades can’t save this sloppy embarrassment.