Back in the day, Bill Murray’s name was enough to sell anything. Throughout the 80s and 90s, everything Bill touched turned to box office gold – although not always critical gold. Still, he brought in the crowds and left the majority of audiences with smiles on their faces. However, in 2015 Bill Murray’s biggest mistake was released. A box-office bomb, the film grossed $3.5 million against a $15 million budget – and has the unlucky title of ‘the 5th worst opening of all-time for a film playing in over 2,000 theatres’. This is ‘Rock The Kasbah’.
Richie Lanz (Bill Murray) is a has-been rock manager taking his last remaining client on a USO tour of Afghanistan. When Richie finds himself in Kabul, abandoned, penniless and without his U.S. passport, he discovers a young Afghan girl named Salima with an extraordinary voice and manages her through Afghanistan's version of American Idol; Afghan Star. The story is very loosely based on true events covered in the 2009 documentary Afghan Star, and is dedicated to one of the stars of that film - Setara Hussainzada. But while Afghan Star has a 100% approval rating on RottenTomatoes, Rock The Kasbah walked away with 8%. Yes, 8%. So, why is this film so shit?
One IMDb review states “it’s not as good as the song”, and that’s a good way to begin. While The Clash’s ‘Rock The Casbah’ is a classic, this Rock The Kasbah is a forgettable mess. Let’s start off with the positives. Firstly, Bill Murray is in it. Bill Murray can make even the worst material bearable, and he does that to a certain extent here. He’s his usual dry self, and if you’re a Bill Murray fan, you’ll find his scenes watchable. If you’re not a Bill Murray fan, I don’t want to know you. And the second positive of this film is that, while he was originally cast in it, Shia LaBeouf dropped out. That’s a positive of any film. Shia LaBeouf is not in it. Rejoice!
And now it’s onto the negatives. Firstly, and most importantly, Rock The Kasbah just doesn’t know what it is - or why it exists. The film feels like a big aimless missed opportunity. The jokes are few-and-far-between, and the film’s attempts to send some sort of political/cultural message are a misfire. Rock The Kasbah plays fast and loose with the culture it portrays and could arguably come off as offensive, but not offensive in a risqué and humorous way. No, just offensive in a grossly incompetent way. Secondly, Rock The Kasbah boats a pretty strong cast around Murray. Bruce Willis, Danny McBride, Zooey Deschanel, Kate Hudson…And yet, by the time the film is finished, you forget they were even in it. They’re wasted.
But then again, when you consider how much of a legend Bill Murray is, he’s wasted too. The film’s main problem is the clueless screenplay from Mitch Glazer and Barry Levinson putting the ‘dire’ in ‘direction’. And for those of you who don’t know, Levinson directed ‘Rain Man’ and ‘Good Morning Vietnam’...I guess no hot streak lasts forever. But I truly hope this isn’t the beginning of a bad final chapter of Murray’s career. Nobody wants to see him go the way of Pacino and De Niro, taking absolutely any film he’s offered and making a fool of himself – unintentionally. Bill Murray is a God and, hopefully, this is just a little blip. Hell, he was perfect in The Jungle Book this year.
Rock The Kasbah is a mixed bag of confusion and mediocrity. Why is it here? Why does it exist? Why did so much talent create such a waste-of-space film? Who is to blame? These are questions we may never be able to answer. But even if we could, we will have moved on before we work it out. Rock The Kasbah is destined to be forgotten and ignored alongside Murray’s other mistakes, like Garfield and…Garfield 2.
There is very little to recommend with Rock The Kasbah. But, anything with Bill Murray gets a couple of stars, because y’know…Bill Murray. 2/5
Rock The Kasbah at CeX
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