Quick! Name the movie where Bill Murray plays a proudly shabby dude who acts like a prick for an hour and then, for reasons of narrative convention rather than character-based truth, shambles toward either heroism or some vague be-nicer enlightenment. Here, the Murray formula crashes into another tired pattern: Hollywood's insistence on reframing fascinating global stories so that they center on white American dudes of vision. Just as Jon Hamm's sports agent became the hero of the film about the first baseball players from India to sign a professional contract, in Kasbah Murray plays a bottomed-out tour manager who manages, with Western pluck, to get a female contestant (Leem Lubany) onto Afghan Star, a localized riff on American Idol.
The story is inspired, in some faint way, by Lima Sahar, the Pashtun woman who in 2008 actually accomplished the feat Rock the Kasbah builds toward. But the movie is as interested in her as Murray has been in making Ghostbusters 3. Instead, Kasbah is mostly Murray bumbling through Kabul and the surrounding desert, wrangling an unpromising American singer (Zooey Deschanel), hooking up with a heart-of-gold hooker (Kate Hudson), getting roped into a gun-running deal with a high-strung mercenary (Bruce Willis), and holler-singing "Smoke on the Water" at a dinner in the compound of an Afghan warlord.
This surplus of plot is at odds with Levinson's and Murray's talents: Both director and star are interested in hanging out, in chasing a moment, rather than a rigorous depiction of the social, political, and religious drama surrounding Sahar's courageous performances or the show's decision to air them.