EXPECTATIONS: Kevin Smith seems to have turned a corner. After insisting up and down that he was quitting movies because film critics are a bunch of angry nerds who hate fun, he's instead decided to double down on himself and produce whatever garbage falls out of his baked little gourd. Tusk is the opening salvo in a trilogy of films that take place in Canada, all based on stories spun on Smith's podcast. And with a premise like "guy gets turned into a walrus," I'd be lying if I said I wasn't excited about this, because man, I sure do love a good trainwreck.
REALITY: Never let it be said that Kevin Smith doesn't deliver what he promises. At a certain point in Tusk, Justin Long waddles into frame trapped inside a floppy, repulsive walrus costume, confirming what I had long suspected about this film. Describing Tusk's backwoods horror premise is one thing; it is entirely another to put that story into motion. What may have looked good on paper, and sounded good in a podcast, is actually kind of an embarrassing sight to behold.
Please, take the next ten minutes to explain what a podcast is.
Justin Long stars as Wallace (haha get it?), the douchebag host of an insanely popular podcast called The Not-See Party. Wallace travels the country interviewing oddballs and buffoons, and returns to Los Angeles to relate these stories on the show to his co-host Teddy (Haley Joel Osment). When an interview with a Canadian misfit falls through, Wallace discovers a flyer promising tales of adventure. He arrives in Bumblefuck, Manitoba, to meet his host, World War II veteran Howard (Michael Parks). Howard soon incapacitates Wallace and informs him of his plan: To surgically transform his victim into a walrus named Mr. Tusk.
Taken on its own, this is hardly a movie, and Smith realizes that. The B-plot concerns Teddy and Wallace's girlfriend, Ally (Genesis Rodriguez), as they follow their missing friend into Canada and begin their search with the aid of detective Guy LaPointe (apparently playing himself).
"I'll show you how to cast pods like a real man!"Up to that point, Tusk is a surprisingly confident piece of work. Smith builds his premise with just enough care that you almost forget where all of this is heading. The handful of scenes that Long and Parks share before things take a turn for the absurd are particularly fun, and we sense that maybe Wallace deserves what he has coming. He's so in love with himself and the idea of what he's doing that it never occurs to him that maybe he shouldn't even be doing it. (Sound like anyone we know?) And you can tell this is a hoot for Michael Parks, who turns in a delightfully weird character every bit as good as the one he played in Red State.
And not to be outdone by a silly costume, Guy LaPointe's role here is bad; I'm talking Ruin-The-Movie bad. Up until his introduction, Kevin Smith has bombarded us with Canadian stereotypes that stopped being funny years ago; everything from getting stabbed over hockey to the fact that all Canadian teens go to Degrassi and say "ehh" and "aboot." Then, Guy LaPointe shows up and recites twenty minutes of Smith's verbal diarrhea with an atrocious French-Canadian accent. What's worse, I'm fairly certain Guy LaPointe is actually Johnny Depp wearing a fake nose. Even if his performance isn't that out of place here, he gets saddled with enough bullshit Kevin Smith-speak that it brings the whole movie to a screeching, calamitous halt.Then, the film takes a tumble off a particularly steep cliff.
Once Howard unveils his goofy abomination, it sucks all of the air out of the room. There really isn't anywhere else to go with this premise, so we start delving more into Howard's backstory. Also, because having Howard monologue for the remainder of the film would be boring as hell, we cut back to Guy LaPointe, who tells his own stories about tracking murderers and discovering mangled bodies. It's all pretty gruesome stuff, but none of it can really overcome the fact that we're all still talking about a man cut up and sewn back together like a walrus.
There's nothing funny about this, Kevin. This man needs medical attention!Smith intends for the horror and comedy of the situation to commingle, but none of that ever truly clicks. Taken on their own, the more disturbing turns work just fine, but the comedy comes out feeling tired and more than a little forced. By Tusk's end, Wallace's fate ultimately becomes too unsettling to be funny, yet at the same time far too silly looking for us to ever take it seriously.
Look, Kevin, I appreciate what you're trying to do here. Parts of this film represent some of the best stuff you've directed in ages. It's clear that the horror angle of this story really intrigues you, and at times, that fascination shines through. There are still just some things nobody, not even the midnight movie crowd, ever needs to see. If you want to keep making movies out of your weekly brainfarts, I suggest you please find someone who won't say yes to your every idiotic whim. The next time you find yourself saying, "Wouldn't it be great if a crazy man forced another man in a walrus costume to please him sexually," maybe listen to that one person who says "No, Kevin. Not at all."
|Long & Parks||8/10|
|The Walrus Costume Looks Like||A burrito stitched together with shoelaces.|
|Smith's Horror Chops||Getting Better. (5/10)|
|That Fleetwood Mac Song||5/10|
MINORITY REPORTS: Do not listen to this man. He's just healous that he doesn't make movies for dick-sucking sycophants that screen to empty theaters all across the country. -Libby "Gentleman Loser" Cudmore
Q: How do you tell the difference between a walrus and an orange, eh, hoser?
A: Put your arms around it and squeeze it, hoser. If you don't get orange juice, it's a walrus, hoser.
Q: What's the difference between a walrus and a banana, eh, hoser?
A: You'd better find out, hoser, because if you ever try to peel a walrus...
Q: What's a balanced diet for - oh, fuck it, just read my screenplay here, hoser. -Kevin Smith
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