“Rock the Kasbah” tells the story of Richie Lanz (Murray), a music talent manager who has fallen on hard times. In an attempt to get back on his feet, Lanz travels to Afghanistan for a USO show with his singer Ronnie played by Zooey Deschanel.
Things take an immediate downturn in the country, though, when his act practically abandons him. To get things back on track, Lanz seeks out talent for an Afghanistan TV series titled “Afghan Star.”
“Rock the Kasbah” could have worked since its cast is talented. The movie is immensely held down, though, by a plot that is far too convoluted. There’s simply too much going on with tribal warfare and arms dealer sub plots. Subsequently, this keeps the film from engaging in its main story of the “Afghan Star” story, which is set aside until what feels like halfway through the movie.
The film also suffers from a very weak script that doesn’t deliver much in terms of comedy or political commentary. Many of the jokes fall flat and the commentary pretty much comes down to a white American trying to change the culture overnight.
Natural charm is something many of the performers have but that too seemed to be missing in “Rock the Kasbah.” Bill Murray is not given much to do here besides try and smooth talk Afghan citizens and his character doesn’t really learn anything new or experience the true horror that has been experienced by the country in the past 14 years.
Other performances from Willis and Deschanel feel phoned in and forced. Probably the saddest result from an acting and character standpoint, though, is Leem Lubany who played the singer Murray’s character meets. The film probably should have centered more on her, yet she’s not given enough screen time.
Director Barry Levinson’s most recent movie is a real disappointment. There isn’t much here to keep an audience engaged or really care about what’s going on. On top of that, the movie comes off as being ignorant to what’s going on in that country. 1 out of 5.