Ever wonder what drives a talented star to constantly pick talents not worthy of their talents? That seems to be the case with Bill Murray, who is undeniably gifted as an actor, but has a tendency to choose really bad films. That may be in part because many of the films he’s taken up in recent years have cast him as a slight variation on this one character: a guy who’s an asshole, but manages to save the day when it counts. It’s obvious that these roles are easy for Murray, but they seem easy to the point of boredom for the actor.
That trend continues with Rock the Kasbah, a film that’s essentially all Bill Murray. Here, he stars as Richie Lanz, a deadbeat dad who cheats wannabe stars out of money in order to survive. Still, he’ll tell anyone who will listen about his role in working with major pop and rock stars. When he encounters a drunk USO booker, though, he gets a chance to take his one client, singer Ronnie (Zooey Deschanel) on a tour in Afghanistan. Thanks to some twists, though, Richie finds himself stranded in Afghanistan with no money or passport. He takes a random job from a few ammo merchants (Danny McBride and Scott Caan), which brings him to a Pashtun village where a young woman named Salima (Leem Lubany) sings to herself in a cave and watches Afghan Star. Richie, of course, thinks he’s found his way out.
Yes, Rock the Kasbah is yet another story about a White Savior, with Richie (and others) thinking he’s saving Salima from her small town to the larger Afghan population. What’s more, Richie either doesn’t get or doesn’t care about the risks Salima takes when he gets her on Afghan Star – whether it’s merely disapproval from her father or the threat of death. It doesn’t help that Salima isn’t a fully-realized character. She’s merely there to help tell Richie’s story by looking solemn and singing the only songs she knows, all from Cat Stevens. In spite of her technical importance to the film, Salima is given less nuance than either Ronnie or Merci (Kate Hudson), who hits the Hollywood cliché bank as the hooker with a heart of gold.
Open Road, the studio releasing the film, has promoted this as being something of an ensemble picture that also includes Hudson, Deschanel, McBride and Bruce Willis, but it’s not. McBride basically has three quick appearances with Scott Caan. Deschanel is a key player for the first 15 minutes at most, then she drops out entirely. Willis and Hudson at least pop up with some regularity, but never for long enough to suggest they’re more than bit players here. Otherwise, this film is all (bored) Bill Murray.
That boredom doesn’t just creep into the rest of the film, either. It overtakes the film. Rock the Kasbah moves from one random scene to another, occasionally hitting on a good idea and squandering it in execution. Honestly, it’s just short of depressing to think about the film for this review, because it’s a complete waste of talent for a story that doesn’t work. If there was more effort, it’d be easier to even get worked up over the White Savior issue, but it just fits with everything else that’s rotten here.