Rock the Kasbah (2015; Rated Rated R)

Rock the Kasbah


Rock the Kasbah

(2015; R)

In theaters:
Friday, 23 October 2015

Comedy, Musical

Barry Levinson

Bill Murray, Leem Lubany, Zooey Deschanel

They say some parts of “Rock the Kasbah” are inspired by true events, but after witnessing this jaw-dropping dud, I’m thinking this is based on a true story the same way “The Santa Clause” is based on the New Testament.

Also, Bruce Willis recently appeared on “Today” and said “Rock the Kasbah” is Bill Murray’s “best movie.”

That would be true only if you discount pretty much all the other Bill Murray movies.

This is an unholy mess — a jumbled, tone-deaf satire in which seemingly vital characters are introduced and then inexplicably disappear, never to return; superb actors disappoint by relying on old tricks they’ve used to much better effect in much better films, and every attempt at political commentary comes across as ham-handed and naïve.

I almost wanted to heckle this film.

The great Bill Murray would seem to be the perfect choice to play Richie Lanz, a burnt-out rock ‘n’ roll manager who tells tales of discovering Madonna, butting heads with Stevie Nicks and touring with Bon Jovi, but now operates out of a seedy motel in Van Nuys. But this is one of Murray’s least inspired performances. It’s the cinematic equivalent of a “Greatest Hits Volume III” compilation from one of your favorite artists. Feels warmed-over.

Richie is down to one legitimate client: a neurotic, semi-talented singer played by Zooey Deschanel. She performs a reasonable cover of Meredith Brooks’ “Bitch” in a seedy little dive bar, which leads to a drunken guy in the “crowd” button-holing Richie and setting up a USO tour to Afghanistan for Richie and his client. Huh?

Cut to Kabul, where, for reasons never explained, Richie’s client disappears with his money and his passport and Richie is left to fend for himself, which eventually leads him to a double-wide trailer where Kate Hudson plays a Texas-born prostitute named “Merci” (pronounced “Mercy”), who dresses a bit like Jeannie from “I Dream of Jeannie” and services American military and Afghan high rollers, which seems like an extremely dangerous way to make a living for a scantily clad, blonde American woman in Afghanistan.

SPOILER ALERT aside about Deschanel’s character. When I say she disappears, I mean she just disappears from the film forever. You’d think Richie, even through the haze of pot and the fog of war and with all the other problems that beset him while he’s in Afghanistan, would pause to say: “Hey, whatever happened to that nice, confused young client of mine who accompanied me here?”

Scott Caan and Danny McBride show up as dimwit, hard-partying American war profiteers who can get you anything for a price. They throw wads of cash and a promise of a new passport for Richie if he’ll facilitate the delivery of crates of ammunition to a remote village — and that bit of inexplicable madness unites Richie with Bruce Willis’ heavily tattooed, gun-toting mercenary, who dreams of writing a juicy memoir and his deeply impressed when Richie tells him he slept with the author Danielle Steele, twice.

Told ya. This movie is all over the place.

When Richie hears the angelic voice of Salima (Leem Lubany), a beautiful Afghan woman who happens to be the daughter of the leader of the village where Richie is delivering that ammo, he schemes to get Salima a spot on Afghanistan’s version of “American Idol” — even though no woman has ever performed on the show, and such a brazen act could result in her getting killed.

At one point Murray sings an obnoxious version of “Smoke on the Water” for Afghan villagers, complete with cutesy reaction shots of the youngsters getting into it and a wise old villager nodding along in broad comic fashion. Willis hams it up as the crusty mercenary, who seemingly loathes Richie—and then says, “You gotta love this guy!” because, well, because that’s what the screenplay has him say.

The music of Yusuf Islam, formerly known as Cat Stevens, including “Wild World” and “Peace Train,” is invoked in stunningly unsubtle fashion. A romance between Richie and Merci the prostitute (remember her?) is utterly without plausibility or chemistry.

We’re even subjected to a scene in which one of the main characters gets shot in “the movie shoulder,” i.e., that tired old cliché in which professional shooters suddenly can’t hit the forehead or the heart from point-blank range, so one of the good guys takes it in the movie shoulder.

This is one of the worst movies of the year. Any year. 



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