Review: Offbeat comedy ‘Rock the Kasbah’ gets a little off-key Special

Posted Oct 27, 2015 by Sarah Gopaul
‘Rock the Kasbah’ is a quirky comedy starring Bill Murray as a music manager who finds his censored star in an Afghan cave.
Bill Murray sings Deep Purple s  Smoke on the Water  in  Rock the Kasbah
Bill Murray sings Deep Purple's "Smoke on the Water" in 'Rock the Kasbah'
VVS Films
Existing is generally also a matter of adapting. Trying to subsist without adjusting to the uncontrollable evolution of life and circumstance is nearly impossible. Change comes in many forms and tones, not all of which will come easy or be agreeable; but that won’t stop it from happening. War is a major cause of transformation as it affects all manner of living and has the power to touch everything in its path. Though even through the ravages of violence can emerge new hope. Rock the Kasbah attempts to pave the way for positive reform in its unique way.
Richie Lanz (Bill Murray) is a talent manager misleading talentless, aspiring performers out of enough cash to pay the bills while making false promises about Celine Dion-type fame. He forces his protégé/assistant, Ronnie (Zooey Deschanel), to sing cover songs in random bars. But while she’s belting out Meredith Brooks’ “Bitch,” Richie gets the craziest tip on a tour opportunity — in Afghanistan. Shortly after landing, Richie’s wild adventure is set in motion by a runaway artist, missing passport, a couple of war profiteers (Scott Caan and Danny McBride), their trigger happy associate (Bruce Willis) and a smooth-talking prostitute (Kate Hudson). However he believes his luck has changed when he haphazardly encounters Salima (Leem Lubany), a young Pashtun woman with an angelic voice, who he believes can win the Afghan version of American Idol. Breaking countless rules and challenging cultural norms in a foreign country, Richie promises to make Salima’s dream of being the first woman to compete on national TV come true.
This movie begins as a very quirky, offbeat comedy that allows Murray to really let loose and play up his eccentricities. Richie is confident, charismatic and can talk his way in or out of anything given a little time. He fancies himself a persuasive negotiator and more than that, a closer — skills he applies in some unconventional situations from talking down warlords to convincing a cab driver to risk his life to encouraging a television producer to take a dangerous chance. The amusing aspect of these negotiations is in spite of being immersed in a different culture, he approaches every situation as a charming music manager from California.
Kate Hudson and Bill Murray stars in  Rock the Kasbah
Kate Hudson and Bill Murray stars in 'Rock the Kasbah'
VVS Films
The mood shifts after Richie discovers Salima because he and the audience are confronted by the less entertaining prospect of unequal rights and war in the country. It’s all fun and games while people are pointing guns at each other, but the idea of a woman being forbidden to sing Cat Stevens in public is distressing. Everything that occurs going forward is both courageous and somewhat inconsiderate as it often exemplifies a desire to push American ideals on the rest of the world. Unfortunately, these complexities suck some of the joy out of the formerly fun narrative.
Nonetheless, the cast is excellent. Murray, as mentioned, is on his extravagant game. Hudson’s first scene contains a brief but sultry speech that can make your hairs stand on end. She’s played a seductress before, but this role is a little dirtier and lets her be a bit tougher than usual. Willis is a total surprise, but an unforgettable source of humour as the no-nonsense mercenary working on his biography. Caan and McBride are enthusiastic and so matter-of-fact about their illegal enterprise it’s hilarious. And finally, Lubany channels the strong personalities of young women standing up to change their lots in life today around the world.
In the end, the ‘90s and earlier soundtrack keeps audiences engaged even when the story gets a little too serious and the awesome performances still make it a worthy trip. Director Barry Levinson still knows what he’s doing when it comes to comedies that address serious issues, but this won’t rank as one of his best.
Director: Barry Levinson
Starring: Bill Murray, Leem Lubany, Zooey Deschanel