Review: Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, C+
Rated R, 111 minutes
The latest Tina Fey vehicle, the likable comedy "Whiskey Tango Foxtrot" does something that renowned actors Bill Murray ("Rock the Kasbah") or Sandra Bullock ("Our Brand is Crisis") couldn't do last fall: find an entertaining premise working in the Middle East. The unfocused "Foxtrot" isn't a great film but still miles better than those aforementioned films, mainly due to its appealing lead actress. While working as a war correspondent in Afghanistan and Pakistan during Operation Enduring Freedom, Kim Baker (Tina Fey) develops a crazy relationship with a fellow journalist from Scotland ("The Hobbit's" Martin Freeman). Loosely based on Kim Barker's nonfiction novel, "The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan," a darkly humorous tale of her time as a war correspondent there in the early 2000's, the charming but rather shapeless dramedy "Whiskey Tango Foxtrot" that can't decide which side it's on: that of a war movie, a fish-out-of-water comedy or a romantic comedy, instead an unsatisfying mishmash of all three. Directed by John Requa and Glenn Ficarra ("Focus," "I Love You Phillip Morris") and written by one of "30 Rock's" lead writers Robert Carlock, "Whiskey Tango Foxtrot" is a modestly enjoyable film that plays to Fey's ability as a smart comedic actress, though the film version significantly changes Barker's narrative and in the process of making a "lighter" film, glosses over many other darker and political angles. The film's romance angle is particularly awkward, and though Freeman is an utterly nice fellow, too much footage is devoted to a relationship that feels nonessential; the most important aspect of the film, the journalism, takes a backseat to this unnecessary, predictable romance. Add in Billy Bob Thornton for a little gruff and Margot Robbie for more eye candy, and you feel the film is really straining to appeal to something for everyone. Of these supporting characters, the most memorable is the unlikely friendship Kim develops with her interpreter, played superbly by Christopher Abbott, seen in last year's underrated, little-seen "James White," as well as a soldier (Evan Jonigkeit) she befriends and later visits ("embrace the suck" he tells her, "and then you move on"). There's no doubting the real Barker, who now works for the New York Times, has a worthy story to be told, but it deserves a better treatment than the predictably enjoyable "Whiskey Tango Foxtrot," which seems to skim the surface of a truly great story.