Despite an All-Star Cast, Rock the Kasbah Fails to Shine

Kaitlin Mahar

Rumor has it that if you want Bill Murray to work on your film, then you need to call him and leave a voicemail. If his voicemail box is full, then you just have to keep calling until there’s space. If Murray is interested, then he calls back. Should this anecdote be true, then it’s safe to say that Murray has a very fastidious selection process for his films. It therefore comes as quite a shock that Murray would answer the call of director Barry Levinson and choose to have any part in Rock the Kasbah, which premiered on Friday, October 23.

The film, which is based on a true story and was written and produced by Mitch Glazer, has so much potential, because it’s truly beautiful.

Washed-up rock manager Richie Lanz (Murray) makes a last-ditch effort to regain his past fame by forcing his only client, Ronnie (Zooey Deschanel) to go on tour in Afghanistan to entertain American soldiers. However, he is almost immediately robbed of his money and passport when Ronnie changes her mind and flees the country to return to the states. In a desperate attempt to return to America, Richie befriends a pair of arms dealers (Scott Caan and Danny McBride), a novel-writing mercenary (Bruce Willis), an American prostitute, (Kate Hudson) and a Madonna-loving cabdriver in order to raise some cash to illegally obtain a passport. However, the deal leads him to a Pashtun village, where  Richie hears a beautiful, teenage girl named Salima (Leem Lubany) singing in a cave. Despite knowing only songs in American English (primarily Cat Stevens) and being forbidden to sing as\a Pashtun woman, Salima dreams of being the first female contestant on Afghanistan’s version of American Idol. What starts out as a plot to exploit a young girl for personal gain turns into a tale of courage and perseverance that would warm hearts. However, the offensive jokes and cheap attempts to hold audiences’ attention have the opposite effect. Without a doubt, the story would’ve fared better as a dramatic film rather than a comedy.

Murray is able to appropriately execute the few decent one-liners the script has to offer, but is overall a disappointing, unfunny caricature of himself. While always seductive, Kate Hudson’s accent keeps flip-flopping, making her performance unimpressive as well.   McBride and Caan are almost as easily-forgotten, with their cameos being too short and not nearly as funny as they believe. Deschanel and Willis, too, seem to be playing nothing more than versions of themselves, or, more accurately, the character types they are best known for playing. The only shining stars is one who is unknown on the American screen: Leem Lubany. From her angelic voice, to her poise and determination as Salima, Lubany serves as the single bright light in a dull sky of stars.

The scenery itself is beautiful, and the cinematography, courtesy of Sean Bobbit, does not fail to show that. Shot on-location in Afghanistan, the sweeping hills of the desert are the most beautiful part of the entire film.

Throughout the dry, bumpy Humvee ride that is Rock the Kasbah, the audience will be left on the edges of their seats… in anticipation of leaving, that is.