ROCK THE KASBAH
SYNOPSIS: A has-been rock manager from Van Nuys, California stumbles upon a once-in-a-lifetime voice in a remote Afghan cave in Rock the Kasbah, a dramatic comedy inspired by stranger-than-fiction, real-life events and directed by Oscar winner Barry Levinson. Richie Lanz (Bill Murray), dumped and stranded in war-torn Kabul by his last remaining client (Zooey Deschanel), discovers Salima Khan (Leem Lubany), a Pashtun teenager with a beautiful voice and the courageous dream of becoming the first woman to compete on national television in Afghanistan’s version of “American Idol.” Richie partners with a savvy hooker (Kate Hudson), a pair of hard-partying war profiteers (Danny McBride and Scott Caan) and a hair-trigger mercenary (Bruce Willis) and, braving dangerous cultural prejudices, manages his new protégée into becoming the “Afghan Star.”
REVIEW: This is a beautiful, but ultimately predictably flick. Nevertheless, all of the elements are still there, especially with the all-star casting. Bill Murray amongst the many delivers an inspiring performance in what seems to be a tailor-made lead part, scripted by 2003’s “Lost in Translation” associate producer, Mitch Glazer. Glazer’s premise is fairly straight-forward, and with lots of funny one-liners and great dialog between the characters he’s able to take audiences on the journey throughout Afghanistan’s war-torn terrain as the back-drop.
The soundtrack is pretty amazing and is quite suitable for the movie. I was curious about the title and as it turns out “Rock the Kasbah" borrows its title from a song by the 1970’s English punk rock band “The Clash,” while the storyline is about the much determined young singer from "Afghan Star," featured in the recent documentary about Setara Hussainzada, a woman who danced freely and performed without a hijab (head-gear) despite many death threats.
Amongst the many appealing things about this flick, though, the way this story is told is pretty interesting. It doesn’t seem to have any interest in Afghan culture or politics other than just having those as a backdrop, leaving audiences to soak up the essence of the narrative.
It’s quite obvious that Bill Murray still has his swagger and gives the movie his all. It’s really cool to see him playing as the sole protagonist once again. Considering his history, Murray is pretty easy to accept as a life-long rocker and roller, and the part of Richie Lanz could only ever have been played by him. He has that star quality where, no matter what line he crosses, as an audience we’ll still be with him because he’s Bill Murray. With any other actor, I’m certain the Lanz character would have simply been seen as a jerk
As one might have concluded by now, I was immensely impressed with this story and likewise, was very moved at the humanity that was kept within the movie. Basically, you felt like you were there and experiencing them as human beings not just "people" of war on far-away lands. And as the story unfolds, it seems to stay true to the cultural nuances and norms and felt quite convincing throughout the 100 minute play time. While ultimately not a blockbuster comedy, like many may think (because of Bill Murray), “ROCK THE KASBAH” is obviously worth watching for a great story, with a great all-star line, and an awesome dynamic backdrop. So, on those merits alone this movie can’t be ignored. Four stars out of five are well deserved here, but this is more of a Blu-Ray rental or pay-per-view viewing type of flick.
By Movi-Man Stan
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