Rock the Kasbah

Bill Murray is rockin’ the kasbah in Rock the Kasbah. Photo Courtesy: Open Roads Films

By Taylor C. Berrier

It’s hard to criticize the greats in theater, but for us normal, non-Hollywood type folk reality is a bit more familiar in our everyday life. Rock the Kasbah makes reality a destructive force of nature rather than allowing it to make something beautiful out of the disgustingness so common in the world today.

The movie really isn’t as bad as I am making it sound so far, but understand comedy doesn’t solve the world’s problems and can’t instantaneously change what’s been the same since forever. Bill Murray teamed up under director Barry Levinson (Wag the Dog, Rain Man) is able to make this abundantly clear in their overall approach to the Rock the Kasbah story. Mitch Glazer (Lost in Translation) took shots in the screenplay that seemed to constantly miss their mark, and wound up relying too much on the improvisation of it’s star and his typecastability. Bill Murray performs nothing out of the usual and leaves a lot to the imagination of what could have been.

There’s a great story here, unfortunately it’s not the story that gets told. You follow the point of view from the wrong people, in this case it’s just one person: Bill Murray. It makes him come off as a bit of a screen hog, though this leaves pretty much the rest of his co-stars shining when they get their turn. It’s a real treat when they come into frame, but they are not there long enough. Zooey Deschanel, Kate Hudson, Bruce Willis, are all integral rotating parts to this film.

But for as important as a character as Salima was, a role portrayed by Leem Lubany (Omar), there was hardly any emphasis to origin for her character, which, contrarily, Deschanel, Hudson, and Willis all deservingly got. Farim Fazli (Iron Man), the actor who plays Salima’s father, also receives his fair share of recognition. But low and behold, the only background attributed to Salima is fictionalized garbage spewed from the mouth of Murray, who at this point is still trying way too hard to be funny three-quarters into the movie.

Somewhere in the middle of the movie I realized there was an attempt being made to undermine certain cultural norms standard in the society in which the film takes place. This is well and good in certain ways, but not without asking yourself whether or not it succeeds in doing so. Did I feel moved when they depicted the first time a female sung on television in Afghanistan? Or was I too busy disgusted by the fact America was taking all the credit for it, not because Salima was singing American songs in English, but because there on the side of the stage is Murray’s character high on his pedestal absorbing the atmosphere he has ultimately fashioned by his own will. Maybe I’m digging too deep. It’s just a movie. But why do I feel so conflicted?

Rock the Kasbah will certainly make you ask yourself some questions about life, about cinema, and about Bill Murray that you probably never would have asked yourself before. There are some really good aspects to this film, though when seen by the perfectionist, it might as well be garbage. There are many points of view that can be taken when criticizing this movie, just don’t hit the wrong ones like the movie does.

Check out Rock the Kasbah in theaters now, but probably not for long, and tell me what you think. Watch the official trailer below to get an idea of what you might be in for. I’ll give you a hint, first name Bill, last name Murray.