Whiskey Tango Foxtrot
With Rock the Kasbah bombing (no pun intended) last year and now this disappointing movie, perhaps we should give comedies in Afghanistan a rest. I was surprised the Albert Brooks movie Looking For Comedy in the Muslim World was so poorly received 10 years ago.
The cast here isn’t to blame. They’re all solid. Well, Billy Bob Thornton, as fun as he is in this, has the same cadence he had as he barked at Sandra Bullock in last year’s horrible Our Brand is Crisis.
There’s good supporting work from Chris Abbott, Josh Charles, and Alfred Molina (is there an ethnicity he hasn’t tackled?).
Margot Robbie (The Wolf of Wall Street) isn’t bad as the rival reporter/BFF to Tina Fey, but it ‘s hard to buy a few of her lines. For example, the first thing she says to Kim Baker (Fey) is about her security guard, and whether or not she can f*** him.
Unfortunately, Tina Fey is playing Tina Fey. Now, she can pull off a serious character. She did it well in the enjoyable This is Where I Leave You. She’s just a bit too clueless here. As Ted Garcia said on KOGO when we discussed this movie, “Do you think America has Tina Fey fatigue?”
Well, I sure do.
Martin Freeman (The Hobbit), who can always pull of humorous and charming characters, does that here. He’s a hard-drinking Scottish photographer, who always says and does rude things. That means they’ll be hopping into bed soon enough. Yeah, the movie is rather predictable. It reminded me of Eat Pray Love, but with more bullets and less food. It’s the typical fish-out-of-water story we’ve seen so many times, and it adds nothing new or that interesting. It needed a better satirical tone, or it needed to be more interesting.
The film is based on Kim Barker’s book The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The name Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is never explained in the movie, but it’s military jargon/alphabet speak, which would stand for “WTF”.
Kim Baker (the “r” is dropped for her character name) is bored riding the same treadmill each day after a boring work day in a cubicle in New York City. She’s offered the chance to be a war correspondent and get some air time (she merely wrote copy for the newscasters previously).
Once she gets there, she does a lot of partying with Tanya Vanderpoel (Margot Robbie) and Iain MacKelpie (Martin Freeman); but we see those three also working rather hard, too.
Baker angers a few of the military people at first, but they quickly warm up to her. They also like her spunk, as in one of her first moments of gunfire, she jumps out of the vehicle to film.
You’re never bored watching her adrenaline fueled antics, but the whole thing feels so derivative.
Some of the jokes work, but so many of them fall flat. A few examples would be a guy reading Oprah’s magazine. Another moment would be Baker being told that she may be a 4 in New York, but in Kabul she’s a 9. And she’s told that twice! It wasn’t funny either time (although the audience at the screening laughed). It worked so much better when Steve Carell started The Way Way Back (a way, way better movie) by rudely telling his future stepson that he was only 3 or 4, but could raise that number during their summer vacation.
The movie gets an extra half a star for using two good songs perfectly. We get a Nilsson ballad during a war scene, and Cypress Hill during a dance scene. I think it’s written into Fey’s contract that she gets to dance to a ‘90s dance tune in each movie she does.
2 ½ stars out of 5.