Rock the Kasbah

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Rock the Kasbah Movie Poster Image
Slapdash, edgy Bill Murray comedy has few laughs.
  • R
  • 2015
  • 100 minutes

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Kids say

age 15+
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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

It's important to stand up for yourself and be happy -- though that can fly in the face of longstanding traditions that may be worth respecting.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Salima risks her life to follow her dream ... although that dream is merely to be famous/on television. She shows bravery in standing up for herself and for her right to be happy (heroic in the eyes of Western viewers), but her actions fly in the face of longstanding traditions, which the film doesn't really account for.

Violence

General chaos in Afghanistan: burning vehicles, shooting, explosions. Main character shot in the shoulder, with blood spurt, bleeding wound. A car carrying the main character explodes and flips upside down. Character tells of being head-butted and bleeding.

Sex

A secondary character is a prostitute. Very strong sexual innuendo/sex talk. The main character is seen "the morning after," tied to a bed wearing a wig and makeup.

Language

Strong, frequent language includes "f--k," "s--t," "bitch," "a--hole," "hell," and "goddamn," plus a middle-finger gesture.

Consumerism

The TV show Afghan Star is referred to as a version of American Idol. A character wears a Levi's t-shirt.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Characters drink fairly frequently. Some minor drunkenness. A character takes a "Mexican quaalude" and becomes comically high. Mention of hashish. Mention of someone being "on crack."

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Rock the Kasbah is a comedy about a burned-out talent agent (Bill Murray) and an Afghani singer who dreams of going on television. Expect vert strong language, with "f--k," "s--t," "bitch," and "a--hole" used frequently. And although no nudity or sex are actually shown, innuendo and sex talk are very strong, sex is suggested, and a secondary character is a prostitute. Violence in the Afghan setting includes shooting and explosions; one character gets a bloody shoulder wound. Characters drink frequently, with minor drunkenness (played for laughs); one takes a "Mexican quaalude" and becomes comically high, and there are mentions of hashish and crack. This isn't one of Murray's stronger efforts, but his fans will still likely want to see it.

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What's the story?

Washed-up, burnt-out rock agent Richie Lanz (Bill 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, Richie 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's forbidden to do such things. Believing in fate, Richie enlists the aid of a local prostitute (Kate Hudson) and starts planning to get Salima on the nation's top talent show, Afghan Star -- even though it would bring shame to her family and perhaps even death.

Is it any good?

Murray seems game in the role of Richie Lanz, using his familiar beloved bag of tricks, but the 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.

Director Barry Levinson can easily get lost if he's making comedies that aren't set in his hometown of Baltimore, and he's very lost here. He doesn't quite know how to reconcile Richie's story with Salima. While Lubany is lovely, her singing isn't particularly memorable, which undermines 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, but everything falls through the cracks.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Rock the Kasbah's sexual content. How much is shown, and how much is suggested/talked about? Do you think all of the sexual content was necessary to the story?

  • How is violence used to suggest war-torn Afghanistan? How effective is it? Does it detract from the humor? Add to it?

  • What does it mean for Salima to win on Afghan Star? How is her victory different from that of a contestant on American Idol in the United States?

  • Is Richie Lanz likable, despite his many faults? Why or why not? What does he have in common with Murray's other characters?

Movie details

For kids who love comedies

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