NEW YORK (Reuters) - Bill Murray plays a has-been rock music manager whose fortune changes while on tour in Afghanistan in "Rock the Kasbah", taking the time-honored route of using comedy to tackle more serious matters.
Murray plays Richie Lanz, whose best years are behind him. When he takes his last client to Afghanistan to perform for U.S. soldiers and gets dumped, a twist of fate sees him meet Pashtun girl Salima Khan with a beautiful voice.
They travel across the war-torn country as Lanz tries to help Khan, played by Leem Lubany, fulfill her dream of becoming the first woman to compete on Afghanistan's version of music talent show "American Idol".
"I haven't felt this way about a movie in a very long time," Murray said at the film's premiere on Monday.
"You sort of use this comedy as your way into maybe a deeper subject matter. The comedy has to stay the course, it has to go all the way through and you have to be able to be funny when things get dark and most challenging."
The movie also stars Bruce Willis as a ruthless mercenary and Kate Hudson as a savvy prostitute.
"The idea of making the story right was going to be determined by the people about whom we were speaking, people from both Afghanistan and the Muslim world," Murray said.
"And those people seem to think that not only is it very successful on a human level, that it's respectful but it's entertaining too."
Oscar-winning director Barry Levinson said he likes to use comedy to address more serious issues.
"I always think it's an interesting way to go about it as opposed to just being a serious film," he said. "Sometimes behavior and real kind of humanistic behavior has the tendency to have humor mixed in with its more dramatic moments."
"Rock the Kasbah" hits U.S. cinemas on Friday.
(Reporting by Elly Park in New York; Writing by Marie-Louise Gumuchian in London; Editing by Louise Ireland)