There’s a special kind of infuriation one harbors for a bad film made by a talented filmmaker starring proven talent. Rock The Kasbah evokes this feeling.
Originally set for an Australian theatrical release in the last quarter of 2015, its abysmal performance in the United States ($3.3m from a $15m budget) rendered it unworthy of screening in Aussie cinemas, and so it was abruptly canned before quietly debuting as a DVD title – and it’s not hard to see why.
Despite Barry Levinson (Rain Man, Sleepers) pulling directive duties and a cast consisting of Bill Murray, Zooey Deschanel, Kate Hudson and Bruce Willis, Rock The Kasbah fails to soar above disappointing mediocrity as the supposed satirical edge it teases in its early stages proves a false promise.
In a role that’s far more unwatchable than what we’d expect, Murray stars as Richie Lanz, a has-been rock manager with very little clout left to his name and a client list that leaves a lot to be desired. Following a tip from a drunk United Service Organisations liaison, Richie convinces his receptionist/key client Ronnie (Deschanel) to sing a few pop tunes for the troops in Kabul, Afghanistan.
Of course this isn’t going to be smooth sailing and after we’ve come to assume Ronnie is the more responsible party, she wigs out, flees with all his money and sets up home in the comfortable surroundings of Dubai. Broke and alone, Lanz tries to better his situation and believes he finds salvation in the form of Salima (Leem Lubany), a young local who possesses a healthy set of vocals.
Though the film fires its clichéd set-ups in rapid succession, the initial half of Rock The Kasbah at least has its cast to keep things somewhat moving with Deschanel’s unhinged wannabe-popstar and Willis’s madman mercenary livening the proceedings up; Danny McBride and Scott Caan as a pair of herbal life salesmen turned ammunition suppliers also keep things exciting to the best of their abilities.
Once Richie and Salima cross paths the film spirals into excruciating drollness as Richie pushes Salima to contend on the Afghan version of American Idol, resulting in an odd culmination that would have us believe all the Greater Middle East’s problems can be solved by the harmonious voice of a pre-teen.
Though the solid ensemble cast lends itself to how disappointing the final product is, even if you took away the star power Rock The Kasbah would still stand as a frustrating, useless “comedy” that wastes its premise on useless exposition.
Review Score: ONE AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Rock the Kasbah is available on DVD and Blu-ray now.