Bill Murray plays Richie Lanz, a washed up music manager that has been promising his assistant Roonie (Zooey Deschanel) for years that he will make her into the next music superstar. One night while watching Roonie perform at a local bar in the Valley, Richie meets one of her fans who just so happens to be in charge of programing for USO shows. Seizing the opportunity while making some money in the process, Richie books Roonie on the next USO tour in Afghanistan. Upon their arrival in Kabul, Richie’s once perfect plan quickly begins to fall apart as he learns that Afghanistan is at war and violence is everywhere. Less than 24 hours later, Roonie goes missing leaving Richie stranded in Kabul without a passport and a cent to his name.
As a child of the 80s, I grew up watching the Bill Murray classics including Caddyshack, Stripes, Ghostbusters, and Scrooged. Murray has always been an actor whose career I followed and supported. After starring in over 70 different films and television shows, it goes without saying that he has had his fair share of ups and downs over the past 40 years. Kicking off San Diego Comic Con 2015 in style, Bill Murray walked through Hall H dressed as Richie Lanz while singing Deep Purple’s Smoke Out of Water. Ever since that day, I eagerly awaited the release of Rock the Kasbah hoping for it to be the next Bill Murray classic.
Unfortunately, Rock the Kasbah is NOT the next Bill Murray classic. Instead, it is a 108 minute mix of poorly developed characters, piss-poor direction, and one of the most disjointed screenplays ever written. While I do believe that there is a great story hidden somewhere within this film, the way that Mitch Glazer (Scrooged) and Barry Levinson (Rain Man) handle the source material and haphazardly piece the film together, it requires a surgeon to find it.
Bill Murray does his Bill Murray thing and still manages to come out of this mess unscathed. While audiences won’t fall in love with Richie like they have with previous Murray characters; he isn’t nearly as painful to watch in comparison to rest of the cast. Don’t get me wrong, this is without a doubt one of Murray’s weaker performances but he still manages to be entertaining at times which brings me to my problems with the film.
During the first 70 minutes, audiences will hear Richie repeat things like “I discovered Madonna” while he wonders through the Afghanistan desert and meets up with a wide array of annoying and unlikable characters including Kate Hudson, Danny McBride, and Scott Caan. Then suddenly and for the last 30 minutes, Glazer and Levinson attempt to tell the story of this real life afghan woman that received death threats after pursuing her dream of becoming a singer on the Afghan Star. This plot-point gave the audience something to care about but comes into play so randomly and late in the film that as a viewer you cant help but careless. I seriously can’t even begin to comprehend why Glazer or Levinson decided to spend more time on Kate Hudson whoring herself out rather than on a storyline that could actually been something special.
To make matters even worse, there are several points throughout the film where I felt as though a scene was accidentally cut out or simply missing. This is one of those rare times where I felt like the studio ran out of money and just edited together what they had. There are so many scenes that don’t connect and several unexplained plot holes. There is one edit in particular near the end where it seems like an entire chunk of the film is missing. It is kind of baffling to be honest.
Please don’t even get me started on how Zooey Deschanel and Bruce Willis are cast to be in his film and are 100% wasted.
Regardless of how poorly written and directed the film might be, there are some great scenic shots of Afghanistan. I will give Levinson some credit for that as it seems like he tried to realistically show what it was like for an outsider to visit Afghanistan. He also did a fairly good job showing what it is like to be living in a country while a war is going on.
Another decent thing about the film is the soundtrack; however, I will tell you right now if you are looking to hear the song, Rock the Kasbah, you will be surely disappointed as it never plays.
All in all, I have no idea who to blame for Rock the Kasbah failures. Should I blame the studio? Glazer? Levinson? Or maybe its a combination of all three. The only thing I can say for sure is that this could have easily been a great story but somehow got turned into this huge garbled and nonsensical mess. I really wanted to love this film but sadly I just couldn’t get behind it. This is without a doubt one of the year’s biggest disappointments.