Combustible Celluloid
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With: Bill Murray, Bruce Willis, Kate Hudson, Zooey Deschanel, Leem Lubany, Arian Moayed, Scott Caan, Danny McBride, Fahim Fazil, Jonas Khan, Sameer Ali Khan, Beejan Land, Husam Chadat, Taylor Kinney, Megan Raich
Written by: Mitch Glazer
Directed by: Barry Levinson
MPAA Rating: R for language including sexual references, some drug use and brief violence
Running Time: 100
Date: 10/23/2015

Rock the Kasbah (2015)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Sing and Stance

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Bill Murray seems game in the role of Richie Lanz, using his familiar beloved bag of tricks, but this movie feels rather slapdash. The lazy, lax rhythms rarely tighten up enough to produce any laughs. As Rock the Kasbah begins, Murray's goofball performance recalls some of his slyest, funniest roles, but as it goes on, it regretfully begins to resemble his more forgettable ones (Larger Than Life, Garfield, etc.); he tries, but the flabby material doesn't support him.

Washed-up, burnt-out rock agent Richie Lanz (Murray) has taken to scheming hopeful singers for small change. When he learns he can take his only client (Zooey Deschanel) to Afghanistan for a USO tour, he jumps at the opportunity. Unfortunately, she deserts him and takes his passport. Stranded, he falls in with a couple of sleazy arms dealers and ends up meeting a fearsome warlord. At night, he hears singing and finds the warlord's beautiful daughter, Salima (Leem Lubany), who is forbidden to do such things. Believing in fate, Richie enlists the aid of a local prostitute (Kate Hudson) and begins a plan to Salima her on the nation's top talent show, "Afghan Star" — even though it would bring shame to her family, and perhaps even death.

Director Barry Levinson can easily get lost if he's making comedies not set in his hometown of Baltimore, and he's very lost here. He doesn't quite know how to reconcile Richie's story with the Salima character. While Ms. Lubany is lovely, her singing isn't particularly memorable and doesn't support the movie's claim of her as an amazing star. She's based on a real person, and the movie seems to want to be respectful to her story in addition to being funny, and everything falls through the cracks.

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