'Rock the Kasbah'
Director: Barry Levinson
Cast: Bill Murray, Leem Lubany, Zooey Deschanel, Kate Hudson, Bruce Willis
If you were expecting a 'Lost in Translation' then you are in for a humungous disappointment. Yes, Bill Murray has the lead role but he is not in 'lead' spirits here. This Barry ('Wag the Dog', 'Rain Man') Levinson directed comedic-drama set in the east(exotica for the westerners) is loosely inspired by the true-grit story of Setara Hussainzada, an Afghan woman who braved death threats to appear in the country's homespun version of 'American Idol' going by the name of 'The Afghan Star'.
Watch the trailer of 'Rock the Kasbah'
Like I said, it's certainly very loosely based on that because what transpires on screen is a much too hare-brained version of that courageous enterprise. Barry Levinson and his scriptwriter Mitch Glazer end-up fashioning a story that's more about a down-and-totally-out Music Manager cum talent spotter Richie Lanz(Bill Murray) who gets lured into a USO tour to Afghanistan to get his one remaining Karaoke talent, Ronnie (Zoey Deschamel) a spot of fame in the army camp there. One step into the ruins-of-war country and Ronnie, getting the heebie-jeebies, wants to vamoose and she does- with the help of free-wheeling mercenary dealmaker Lanz(Bruce Willis). Richie, left behind with no talent and empty pockets, has to depend on a friendly pair of Herbalife salesmen turned gun runners (Scott Caan, Danny McBride) to help drown his sorrows. They get to persuade him to do a gun-running job that's supposedly as safe as milk. Enroute he has a decadent night-romp with Miss Merci (Kate Hudson), an American hooker with a heart of gold who runs a one-woman brothel from a trailer behind a club, gets mixed-up in a village level coup-of-sorts and also gets lucky in discovering a local talent Salima Khan(Leem Lubany) who has the potential to go the distance on the Afghan Star. Only problem is getting her parents and village elders to see reason in a country where women have been forced behind the purdah and disallowed from any public displays of body or talent.
But actually the crunch comes when Richie admits he never discovered any hot talent in his entire career. He is just a two-bit con-artist of a talent agent with an office in a dilapidated Van Nuys motel, who claims to have discovered Madonna, and takes credit for urging Jimi Hendrix to play "The Star-Spangled Banner" at Woodstock. So does he know anything about music at all?
Well, that's quite a hard nut to crack because the manner in which he goes about getting the girl to the final stage is way too quirky and unappetizing. The story never rings true, the antics are jaded and the performances – more than just lackluster- especially from all those heavy-weight stalwarts in the picture. The one person who makes a difference is Leem Lubany( the actress from the Oscar nominated Lebanese film 'Omar') who is refreshingly alive and sparkling with talent in a performance that gives the discordant, juvenile and unbecoming narrative some much needed excitement. It's quite a harried ride, this one!