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Review: Rock the Kasbah

You know a movie is truly terrible when comedy legend Bill Murray cannot even rescue it. We suspect that if the movie Zomebieland were remade today, he would confess in his final scene that he very much regretted making both Garfield and Rock the Kasbah.

The latter movie, the latest miss from acclaimed director Barry Levinson, following last year’s long forgotten The Humbling, is a very loose retelling of the 2009 documentary film Afghan Star, yet the narrative from that film is only addressed haphazardly here.

This film opens with washed up music manager Richie Lanz (the aforementioned Murray) defrauding an out of tune singer with the promise of launching a successful music career for her. With his lone client Ronnie (Zooey Deschanel, wasted), who also serves as his assistant in his dingy office, he insists that he soon will return to his glory days whereby he discovered Madonna and dated Danielle Steel. Lo and behold, that very night, when Ronnie is belting out a Meredith Brooks cover in a seedy bar, they’re offered the opportunity to travel to Afghanistan where Ronnie will be the opening act on a USO tour.

Following a turbulent flight, Ronnie panics and escapes from the Middle East (somehow evading their security detail), but not before stealing Richie’s cash and passport. Before you have time to question the plot points, Richie becomes involved with arms dealers (played by Scott Caan and Danny McBride), a savvy prostitute (played by a scantily clad Kate Hudson), and a war veteran (played by Bruce Willis), all of which become embroiled in a violent battle between two warring Afghan factions.

Ah yes, and then there’s the Afghan Star narrative connection. You see Richie overheard one of the Afghan faction leader’s daughters singing Cat Stevens covers in a cave one night and, despite disobeying strict societal and religious restrictions, he places her in a popular television singing competition (a la American Idol).

By the end of the film, the audience is meant to feel warm-hearted about a Pashtun girl who was willing to take a stand against religious oppression (which was the real-life case shown in the doc Afghan Star), yet one merely feels befuddled by its conclusion. Did screenwriter Mitch Glazer intend this project as a modern-day Wag the Dog by way of American Dreamz? Bill Murray deserves so much better than this mess.

[star v=1]

Leora Heilbronn

Leora Heilbronn is a Toronto based film aficionado who has a weakness for musicals and violent action flicks. She can often be spotted reading a wide range of literature or listening to show tunes.