Rock The Kasbah – Movie Review

Rock the KasbahRock The Kasbah – R
Release Date: Fri 23 Oct 2015

Barry Levinson directs this dry comedy starring Bill Murray as Richie Lanz, a down on his luck music manager who ends up trapped in Kabul, Afghanistan after his less-than-talented client (Zooey Deschanel) disappears with his passport and all of his money. Lanz tries to make the best of it looking for friends and contacts who can help him get back to America, but on the way he discovers a talented provincial girl who he tries to help win the television music competition Afghan Star.

Murray expertly walks the line between keeping the twists and turns of the story amusing without defusing the danger surrounding him. The movie occasionally looks like it is going to become The Three Amigos but thankfully never does. This movie’s tone is much more realistic, and Lanz is more lucky than he is actually good at his job or at negotiating with the various dangerous factions surrounding him. Most of the laughs are of the nervous “I can’t believe he got away with that” or of the “Only Bill Murray…” variety.

With a different lead actor or a younger one, the movie would not have worked nearly as well. Bruce Willis, Kate Hudson and Danny McBride are each good in the handful of scenes they are in, and Leem Lubany is excellent as Salima, the girl who broke two rules at once by being the first woman to sing on television. Salima’s American pop culture knowledge is also a point of consternation as she sings English-language covers of Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens.)

Richie Lanz doesn’t hold up to the name test – but here it’s not at all a bad thing. This is exactly the kind of mischief and good fortune one would expect Murray himself to have under just about any circumstances. The movie manages to be respectful and funny, serious but not preachy. It’s a delicate balance that some viewers may find tense, but would probably just enjoy more on a second viewing once you know how everything turns out.

Cal, and I saw it in the theater and had a discussion in the car:


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