Rock the Kasbah full movie review - "Rock the Kasbah" is entertaining, but won't exactly rock your world.
Rock the Kasbah. That three word phrase can mean different things to different people, depending on their personal pop culture awareness and even where they were born.
The word Kasbah, which is sometimes spelled with a "c" and sometimes with a "q", traditionally refers to a fortress or a fortified portion of a Muslim city, but can also mean an older section of such a city. Kasbahs are mainly found in North Africa and, apparently, someone named Shareef doesn't like it when you rock a casbah. That's what "The Clash" told us in their 1982 hit song "Rock the Casbah". Those words (with that "c"-spelling) have also been used as the title of a 2013 French-Moroccan dramatic film and another from Israel in 2012. (There was also an American musical in 1948 that simply used the one-word title: "Casbah".) "Rock the Casbah" also happens to be the name of an annual star-studded L.A. party hosted by Virgin Airlines CEO, Sir Richard Branson, and his mother, Eve, to raise money for charitable work in? North Africa. So, now that we've come full circle, it's time to add another casbah/kasbah/qasbah reference to the list ? the 2015 Bill Murray comedy "Rock the Kasbah" (R, 1:40), which takes place in? Afghanistan.
Murray plays Richie Lanz, a washed-up Southern California music promoter, overflowing with stories of his relationships with famous rock musicians, but short on recent success. He's even desperate enough to commit cover singer Ronnie Smiler (Zooey Deschanel), the only real client he has left, to a USO tour of American military bases in Afghanistan. Richie literally doesn't know what he's gotten himself into. When reality sets in, Ronnie leaves the country, along with Richie's money and his passport. With no cash, no identification and a two-week wait for the U.S. Embassy in Kabul to get him a new passport, he needs other American civilians living in Afghanistan to help him survive until he can get out.
The expats whom Richie meets are quite the colorful cast of characters. Popular local American-born prostitute, Merci (Kate Hudson), helps Richie out? in a number of different ways. (She pronounces her name "Mercy" and is a worldly wise, but sexy-spiritual character.) Then, there's Bombay Brian (Bruce Willis), who is a cross between a mercenary and a very well-armed security guard for hire. Danny McBride and Scott Caan are ammo suppliers, named Nick and Jake, who are making a financial killing, while helping anyone with the money make some literal ones. Richie also gets some much-needed transportation services, street knowledge, cultural education and translation services (not to mention friendship and good advice) from a kind, young Disco-loving local cab driver named Riza (Arian Moayed).
Since he has nowhere to go and nothing to do at the moment, Nick and Jake literally toss Richie a pile of cash to make an ammo delivery to local tribal chief Tariq Khan (Fahim Fazli). Brian is there for security, Riza to translate and Richie for his deal-brokering experience. Richie and Riza end up spending the night in the chief's home. Late at night, while outside taking care of some personal business, Richie hears the beautiful voice of Traiq's daughter Salima (Leem Lubany) singing in the distance. She's inside a cave because women in her culture are not permitted to sing in public. Richie entering the cave scares her off, but the next morning, she hears Richie praising her voice while talking to her father, and she stows away in the trunk of Riza's taxi as he drives Richie back to Kabul. Richie is so enchanted by Salima's singing voice ? and the opportunity to manage her ? that he uses all his charm and skills to try to get her on the very popular reality TV show "Afghan Star", which is the local equivalent of "American Idol". Performing is Salima's dream and she also sees it as a way to praise Allah, but Allah's other followers in the area see things differently. By helping Salima, Richie and Riza have endangered their lives and hers ? and given an opening to a rival leader who thinks Tariq is too soft and would like to replace him as chief.
"Rock the Kasbah" is inspired by the true story of a young female singer in Afghanistan? but it's also a Bill Murray comedy. The advertising tries to? bill this movie as a return to comedic form for Murray. There's definitely some of that smarmy, irreverent humor that made Murray famous in the early 1980s, but not as much as you might think based on the trailers. The film is an entertaining mix of Murray-esque comedic situations, war-time satire, social commentary and old Cat Stevens / Yusuf Islam songs. The main characters are generally likable, while the situations are only pseudo-realistic, but the movie is often charming and amusing, if not laugh-out-loud funny. The main problem with the film is that the script, directing and performances soft pedal both the comedy and the drama in an attempt to have it both ways. "Rock the Kasbah" may be worth a look, but don't expect it to rock your world. "B"