Thursday, October 22, 2015

Rock the Kasbah (Rhoades)

Front Row at the Movies

Bill Murray Repeats Familiar Plot In “Rock the Kasbah”
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

First, let me say I’d watch any movie with Bill Murray. But a comedy set in Afghanistan, a country still embroiled in America’s longest war, resulting in 2,326 US military deaths, 20,083 wounded, and 1,173 civilian contractor fatalities -- not to mention tens of thousands Afghani deaths?

You’re not laughing.

Too soon?

In “Rock the Kasbah,” Bill Murray -- the Saturday night Live alum who went on to star in movies ranging from “Stripes” to ”Ghostbusters” to “Lost in Translation” -- plays down-and-out Richie Lanz, a talent agent who takes his last remaining client on a USO tour in Afghanistan.

Murray’s joined in the cast by Bruce Willis, Kate Hudson, Zooey Deschanel, Kelly Lynch, and Danny McBride. Along with Fahim Fazil, Sameer Ali Khan, and Arian Moayed.

Barry Levinson (he won an Oscar for “Rain Man”) directs.

“Rock the Kasbah” is currently playing at the Tropic Cinema.

The story: Through a series of mishaps, Richie finds himself stranded in Kabul without a penny in his pocket or even his passport. But as the movie’s tagline says, “Opportunity rocks when you least expect it.”

Dusty and disheveled, Richie discovers a young Afghani girl with a remarkable singing voice and regains his success by entering her on a popular television show in Afghanistan, an Islamic version of “American Idol.”

Come on, you might say, a TV show like “American Idol” in the Middle East? Who’s going to believe that?

As it turns out, there is one -- “Afghan Star.”

Nosing around, here’s what I turned up through a friendly blogger: “Many years ago,” my TV-watching pal says, “some idle channel surfing landed me at a fascinating documentary about the show ‘Afghan Star’ … It was unbelievable! The men competing wore suits and ties and the pop song lyrics were so stilted, owing presumably, to the puritanical Muslim culture; they had to sing about ‘watching my lovely lady walking.’ It was cringeworthy.

“And the big controversy in the film was that one of the two women finalists was planning to dance during her song, which would have been a scandal. These women were wrapped from head to foot with only a small portion of their faces showing and the daring one did a silly bouncy little walk across the stage for a few seconds as she sang, sending the entire country into riots, moral panic and social convulsions. Her opponent capitalized on this by denouncing her as a whore and it was reported that her family had to leave their village under death threats … I’m guessing someone else saw this documentary and it inspired this movie.”


But then again screenwriter Mitch Glazer might have hatched the idea after catching a midnight rerun of “The Sapphires,” that 2012 indie film about a down-on-his-luck talent scout who discovers four aboriginal sisters who sing remarkably well and sets off on a tour of war-torn Vietnam with his new girl group.

But who cares.

After “Groundhog Day,” I’m used to seeing Bill Murray repeat things over and over and over again.

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