STORY: Richie Lanz (Murray) is a down-on-his-luck manager of musicians. While claiming to have once had a glowing roster of stars, the best he can now do is to book his sole act, Ronnie (Deschanel) to sing in dive bars. His life changes one day, when he ends up in Afghanistan, discovers a talented Pashtun singer named Salima (Lubany), and has her participate in reality show Afghan Star.
REVIEW: Richie runs his artiste management business from a makeshift office in a Van Nuys motel. A hustler at heart and in desperate need of cash, he’ll manage even the worst possible singers who are tone deaf, in a desperate bid to cover his costs. Ronnie helps him out as his secretary in the hope that he’ll steer her in the right direction, career-wise. So when a promoter asks him to get Ronnie to tour Afghanistan, Lanz’s sold on the idea.
Cut to Afghanistan and a disastrous turn of events leaves him lost, in every sense. But deliverance arrives in the form of Salima, and Lanz gets a shot at reviving his self-esteem by managing her in the face of all odds, like for example, her father’s bitter opposition to her being a singer.
The issue with this movie is that it tries to be too many things. Murray has his comedic turns. He works best in concise, well-paced doses but an entire film’s worth of Bill Murray gets a bit too much.
A commentary on female emancipation is also attempted, but looks insincere. Then there’s a side-story about Afghan tribal politics that only distracts from the main story. Except for Lanz’s driver friend Riza (Moayed), the other Afghans come across as perpetually-angry, fanatical caricatures. Hudson’s campy prostitute character seems completely unnecessary; it adds nothing to the film.
Furthermore, the idea that a reality TV show can unite a war-torn country and make the Afghans forget their concerns, comes across as farcical. While the film’s basic premise is unusual and in parts interesting, it loses steam in the second half, with a fairly bland conclusion.