In his new movie, it seems director Barry Levinson wants to give the audience something they have never felt before: an intense hatred for the star, Bill Murray. The only saving grace for the usual fan favorite actor is that the entire film is just as unlikable – an absolute mess from a director who’s been making films for over thirty five years, albeit he hasn’t made a really good one in close to twenty. That being said, Rock The Kasbah will make you want him to quit altogether.
Coming from a script by Mitch Glazer, who wrote one of Bill Murray’s hit films Scrooged (as well as his upcoming Netflix show A Very Murray Christmas), the film boasts an interesting cast to play bit parts around the lead, including Bruce Willis, Zooey Deschanel, Kate Hudson, Danny McBride and Scott Caan. None of these actors do the movie any good as the script and execution of the film push it far beyond saving.
The story follows Richie Lanz (Murray), a music talent manager without a single successful client, operating out of a slum hotel in Van Nuys. Earning his keep by duping halfwits out of money for representation, Richie tries to push his only real client and his receptionist Ronnie (Deschanel), booking her in dead end gigs performing for drunks.
One evening a drunken patron tells Richie that he’s a booker for the USO shows that play across Afghanistan. Richie quickly agrees, seeing dollar signs, and drags a reluctant Ronnie onto a plane ride to the Middle East. Once there, Ronnie quickly steals his money and passport and ditches him, never to be heard from again. Literally, they never mention her or resolve what happened to her at all, because, who cares, right?
The main drive of the film is how to get Richie home but along the way, through ridiculous happenstance, he discovers a young Afghan woman who has a beautiful voice: at least when it comes to Cat Stevens cover songs. His big idea is to enroll her as a contestant in the Afghan Star competition, a reality show like American Idol. This causes strife with her father, a local elder, and the rest of the village she lives in.
As I said, the writing and directing of this film is absolutely awful. The story starts off completely obnoxiously and as soon as it gets to Afghanistan it gets worse. I draw the comparison of people descending on Coachella and leaving a landfill mess in the aftermath. In this case, an American film comes in to this country, with the appearance of a nice international comedy and instead make a giant steaming pile in front of you and go “Well, there it is! We’ll be leaving now.”
This excrement pile includes a mish mash of terrible film styles, including an incredibly awkward and obviously unrehearsed scene all done on handheld camera. It feels like there were six directors of photography on the movie and none of them could get along. Adding the post production woes of the terrible dialogue sound looping on the Afghan girls singing and one Kate Hudson in particular, my forehead was red from all the facepalms that it incurred.
Speaking of Kate Hudson, I need to address some of the absolute brutal acting in this film and I immediately lock on this actress who keeps getting roles without the merit of being able to act them. Playing a local prostitute, Hudson is neither sexy nor charming as she limps lazily from one terrible wardrobe choice to the next. It’s atrocious.
Then there’s Bruce Willis, who again does a “Cop Out” “Let’s phone this in” by giving every line he says the weight of an over cooked spaghetti noodle. We know the action star has it in him to actually entertain us but it feels like most of the time he doesn’t want to. A known primadonna from lots of different behind the scenes interviews and articles, I, for one, am getting very sick of these antics.
This movie has zero tone and absolutely no flow to it. Anytime our main character is in any sort of danger Levinson decides to quickly cut out of the scene, giving no conflict and the story no drive. Instead we’re just left with Bill Murray being an a-hole in the Middle East. To hammer that home even more, we get a during the credits scene of him sarcastically hassling a store owner for no reason.
If I could say anything to sum up this film for people who genuinely love Bill Murray in his movies, it would be don’t give this movie even a moment of your time. No one cared about the making of this film in the cast and crew, so why should you? Maybe Levinson should retire that director’s hat and stick to producing, if that. Rock The Kasbah gets a barely earned one out of five.