Rock the Kasbah review
Now is one of the best times for television. It was just a few years ago when the state of TV was at it’s lowest and the majority of popular shows were reality programs. Survivor, Big Brother and the majority of MTV (Jersey Shore, MADE, and Parental Control to name a few) were considered the hit thing that people seemed to not get enough of. Like plenty of folk, I found the most of it to be uninteresting and had almost no rewatch value. Out of the programs we got from this short-lived fad, the one that will go down in history as the most popular and iconic will be American Idol.
Like anything that’s popular, there has to be some translation for the rest of the world. American Idol saw an unlimited supply of regional shows for every country. One such that was also a critically acclaimed documentary was the Afghanistan version, Afghan Star. For a third world country like this, this show remains one of the most watched programs and is even as seen as a chance to escape their poor lives. The very loosely true story about an American music manager helping out an aspiring Afghan singer is shown in Rock the Kasbah.
Richie Lanz (played by Bill Murray) is a down on his luck manager who claimed to have discovered talent like Madonna and Stevie Nicks. He currently represents a rocker Ronnie (played by Zooey Deschanel) who can only get her work singing in bars in LA. As luck would have it, a representative from the USO tours finds Ronnie to be good enough to open for the big singers. Richie proudly accepts and boards a plane for Kabul, despite Ronnie being too scared. They arrive, but only hours into the trip does Richie realize that Ronnie has run away, taking his money, passport and plane ticket along leaving the guy stranded.
He first tries to find her with the help of two gun salesmen Nick (played by Danny McBride) and Jake (played by Scott Cann) that proves fruitless, though he meets local prostitute Merci (played by Kate Hudson) that shows him what to do. He finds out it’s going to be weeks before he can get another passport, so he participates in a transaction with the salespeople and local mercenary Bombay Brian (played by Bruce Willis). The village their working with seems peaceful and believes in old tradition, but Richie hears the singing voice of a girl Salima, who decides that she could win Afghan Star.
With such a talent board and an idea that could raise plenty of questions about the war, and American influence on the Middle East, Rock the Kasbah should have been more interesting and way funnier. It takes a lot of work to make Bill Murray, who has experience in playing lovable jerks, into an unfunny, very sad looking imbecile. In fact, why is he the focus? Clearly the story should put more emphasis on the Afghan girl whose story has to be a hundred times more interesting.
The set up seems ready to go, but director Barry Levinson (Rain Man, Good Morning Vietnam, and Wag the Dog) never establishes an idea of what kind of movie Rock the Kasbah wants to be. It wants to be a satire on music business, but dwells into dark terrorist War drama, while juggling with a coming to acceptance philosophy and fish out of water jokes. It’s a boring mess.
Not to mention, the environment the movie has us in is in a gloomy, depressing world that would have been fine had it been a drama, but as a comedy, it brings it down even more.
I’ll give this two Afghan Star logo’s out of five. Rock the Kasbah rarely works both as a Bill Murray vehicle and as a satire on it’s own. While Murray tries to go with the flow, it’s not worth going with him to hear an occasional joke. This was something that should have been set on a different character and maybe even made as an foreign film from Afghanistan. But unfortunately, this Kasbah has little to rock about.