Rock the Kasbah (2015)

(Netflix Streaming, June 2016) I expected a bit more from the idea of Bill Murray as a veteran impresario finding new talent in war-torn Afghanistan. The premise seems fit to accommodate a lot of comic potential, not to mention Murray doing what he does best. While Rock the Kasbah does manage to meet a few of those expectations, it seems limited by budget and imagination from delivering a truly satisfying result. The clash of culture between American hedonism and Afghani resilience is never completely explored, Kate Hudson seems wasted as something of a super-prostitute, Murray doesn’t get to disengage his persona’s autopilot and the film’s conclusion manages to weaken the impression left by the film’s better second quarter. Rock the Kasbah could have been a much sharper geo-sardonic comedy, but it seems happier to coast on caricatures and attitude. There are unexplainable script issues (Why get rid of a certain character entirely? Why bring in another main character so late? Why waste strong actors in small roles?) While Bruce Willis once again shows up for the paycheck, at least Leem Lubany is a revelation as an Afghani singer, and Murray does get a few moments of hangdog charm. Fitfully amusing, Rock the Kasbah nonetheless leaves us wanting more. There have been far better comedies exploring the twenty-first century’s geopolitical weirdness for this one to register as particularly interesting.

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