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Rock the Kasbah

Updated on November 13, 2015
Stevennix2001 profile image

Steven Escareno is an amateur film critic that writes about movies in his spare time.

Rock the Kasbah

Director: Barry Levinson

Writer: Mitch Glazer

Cast: Bill Murray, Bruce Willis, Scott Caan, Danny McBride, Leem Lubany, Zooey Deschanel, Kate Hudson, Arian Moayed, Fahim Fazli, Jonas Khan, Sameer Ali Khan, Beejan Land, Husam Chadat, Taylor Kinney, Megan Raich

Synopsis: A down-on-his-luck music manager discovers a teenage girl with an extraordinary voice while on a music tour in Afghanistan and takes her to Kabul to compete on the popular television show, Afghan Star.

MPAA Rating: Rated R for language including sexual references, some drug use and brief violence

Stevennix2001's Rating and Summary for those wanting to skip the review:

6 / 10

Pros:

- Bill Murray's acting and comedic timing is always on cue, as he definitely makes the most out of a weak script.

- Acting wasn't that bad. Sure, Danny McBride and Bruce Willis basically play themselves again in a damn film, but what else is new?

Cons:

- Character arcs for various characters go unresolved; particularly in the case of Bill's character, who's originally portrayed as a deadbeat dad at the beginning. However, we never get any resolution behind that story arc.

- The pacing for this horrible, as it drags a lot.

- The film is a bit dry at times.

Arguably one of the best performances of Bill Murray's career that you haven't seen yet

You want to know the real crime about this movie is? It's the fact that it's called "Rock the Kasbah", yet it doesn't even have the song "Rock the Casbah", by the Clash, anywhere in it. What a freaking crime. Although to be fair, it's been stated, by various sources, that the filmmakers behind this movie couldn't get the rights to use the infamous Clash song, so it's not entirely their fault for this travesty. However, it's still a huge letdown considering that when you have a movie that has almost the exact same freaking title of a popular song, then you expect to hear that song at some point during the film. Otherwise, it just feels too much like a c**k tease if anything.

Apart from that minor little nitpick, I have to say that "Rock the Kasbah" features one of Bill Murray's finest performances to date. Granted, he's starred in far greater parts ranging from "Lost in Translation" to pretty much any Wes Anderson role that he's ever starred in; via lead acting or supporting. The story follows a struggling music manager named Richie Lanz, who's something of a pathological liar.

Often smooth talking his way into gigs, while making up elaborate stories about hobnobbing with various celebrities. Hell, he even boasts about sleeping with quite a few of them too. He currently represents a singer named Ronnie, who's played by the lovely Zooey Deschanel. During one of her concerts, he's able to book her a gig on the USO tour for the US military soldiers stationed in Afghanistan. Ronnie begrudgingly accepts, while Richie constantly tries to goat her into the situation. Needless to say, things go awry, as she abandons him the first chance she gets to head back to America. However, she ends up stealing all his money, and passport to do so. Sadly, this puts Richie in an awkward place considering he's abandoned in hostile territory with no money, nor any identification to speak of.

Not to mention the fact that the military soldier that helped Ronnie leave Afghanistan was promised a large sum of money for his assistance, which she said would be paid for by Richie himself; even though he wasn't there to initially agree to such an offer. However, Richie tries his best to make the best of it, as he even gets talked into being used as something of a patsy in some elaborate weapon selling scheme.

And through a series of events, he discovers a young Muslim girl, who harbors secret aspirations to sing in front of an audience someday. From there, Richie gets the idea of entering her on some TV show in Afghanistan that's similar to "American Idol" in the US. However, it's forbidden for to do so in accordance to her culture's rules on how women are supposed to behave. Needless to say, this presents a lot of issues for Richie, in his pursuit to help her win the competition.

At the end of the movie, it was stated in a text that this film was allegedly inspired by a true story. How much of the movie was actually based on that real life story, I can't say for certain. However, it's definitely interesting nonetheless.

Although the film presents a lot of interesting concepts, it never feels like it resolves most of it's key subplots. At the beginning of the movie, we're shown that Richie is something of a deadbeat father, who can't pay his wife child support, and he barely gets by as Ronnie's manager, to the point that he's having to con other would be talent less girls out of their hard earned money just to keep his business afloat.

In fact, we even learn that it's gotten so bad between Richie and his ex wife that the only way he can even see his preteen daughter is by secretly talking to her, through her bedroom window each night. Trust me, it's not as creepy as it sounds.

Without giving away any major spoilers, we're given the impression that Richie is a good man at heart, but he often finds himself in compromising positions that force him to act like a bit of a d**k to various people, in order for the plot to move along. It's not a bad thing per say, as it does lead to a lot of comedic moments. However, it does make it harder to root for his character throughout most of the film.

Not to mention the fact that the payoff for his redemption feels a bit underwhelming, and it's nowhere near as satisfying as one would hope. For starters, we never hear about what happened between him and his daughter, nor do we ever learn if he ever makes it back to the states or not. Nope. If anything, the film never addresses it again, which makes the entire scene with his daughter kind of pointless to bring up if there wasn't going to be any resolution to it.

As for the acting performances, they were OK at best. Nothing spectacular, but it certainly wasn't anything that I would say is downright terrible. Danny McBride continues to play different variations of himself on the big screen rather than doing any actual acting. Not saying there's anything wrong with it. Hell, both Marilyn Monroe and John Wayne used to do the same damn thing in all their films, yet people praise them like they're some of the best actors of all time. But I digress.

For the most part, "Rock the Kasbah" is a fairly decent film to watch. Granted, it can be a bit dry at times, and it tends to drag a lot; particularly around the beginning. However, Bill Murray's comedic timing makes "Rock the Kasbah" worth watching; in spite of it's many shortcomings.

Overall though, if you're looking for a halfway decent comedy, then "Rock the Kasbah" might be worth checking out on TV if it ever comes out on basic cable or Netflix. However, I wouldn't go out of my way to see it though if you have anything better to watch.

The Clash - Rock the Casbah (Since the movie title is so damn similar to this music video, I figured it was appropriate to feature it here)

© 2015 Steven Escareno

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