Questionable Politics and The Wayward Traveler : Bill Murray Rocks Afghanistan

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This past weekend, instead of diving into the latest Paranormal Activity entry or hanging with Vin Diesel, I chose to go see one of the worst reviewed films of the week (second only to the abysmal Jem and The Holograms) and went to see the new Bill Murray vehicle Rock The Kasbah.

Going in, I knew the critics didn’t like it but I really didn’t care. The previews looked interesting enough and I, like most of my generation, idolize Bill Murray. He has moved on from playing the funny man and into playing more mature and adult roles. I am a big fan of his work with Wes Anderson and of St. Vincent that came out a couple years back. This one to me is a strange hybrid of the two brains of Murray. This makes it very hard to read a film like this.

Murray plays a washed up tour manager named Richie Lanz who, with the help of his only client Ronnie played by the foxy Zooey Deschanel, hustle would be losers out of money promising them fame and fortune. This seems to be going nowhere until he get the plan to go to Afghanistan to pimp his client to the USO crowd and make a mint off the government. This goes to plan until Ronnie gets cold feet from the pressures of them being in war time Afghanistan and runs for safety stealing the passports and all the cash.

After getting mixed up with two crazy American arms dealers (played by Scott Caan and Danny McBride) and a wacky mercenary (Bruce Willis), he makes his way to Kabul where he meets a new talent,  a local girl who he literally discovers in a cave named Salma.

He of course sees dollar signs and wants to make her a big star. So with the help of Merci, the whore with heart of gold played by Kate Hudson and an ambitious local host of a singing competition, she is thrust into stardom by going on the Afghan rip off of American Idol. Singing Cat Stevens songs in English with her face uncovered for the war torn land to see.

Therein lies the problem with a film like this. We’ve all seen films like Good Morning, Vietnam (which is also directed by Barry Levinson) where the wacky American shows up to shake things up during war time. That film was made after the conflict was over. The issue with this film is that the writers of this film take a conflict that is still going on and play some of the more serious parts way too much for laughs.

The idea of this guy taking this young girl and assimilating her to our way of thinking is a big red flag for me. She is promised fame and fortune if she wins this competition. All she has to do is defy her religion, family and very real threat from the warlords that run the country. This of course leads to a very cookie cutter Hollywood ending where her people defy the oppressors and she wins the competition.   Risking the consequences that would befall her family and herself being ridicule and possibly, in aa key seen in this film, possible death.

The performances themselves were ok. The story was the issue. It was a weak concept with way too many laughs for a film like this. I have no problem mixing comedy with politics. Stand up comedians do it all the time. Just give us a product that will give you the message without stepping all over a culture. With that, it is a real pickle whether or not to reccomend this film or not. It depends on how you feel about the subject matter.

Final score – 6 out of 10