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TUSK (review)

Written and Directed by Kevin Smith
Staring Justin Long, Haley Joel Osment and Michael Parks

Kevin Smith: Is man indeed a walrus at heart?

One of the most divisive American movie makers among critics and fans has got to be Kevin Smith. Highly acclaimed when CLERKS hit the scene in 1994, Smith has been loved by his loyal admirers of nerdy fan boys and pot smokers ever since, thanks to his acerbic wit and skilled dialogue writing. But over the past 20 years, Smith has proven himself to be more of a one trick pony, telling variations on the same old jokes, progressively getting worse and worse, as can be seen in such terrible films as JERSEY GIRL, COP OUT, and his latest film TUSK, starring Justin Long. Smith fans will still find much of what they love about him in TUSK (inside jokes, obligatory Canadian humour), but the ambitious project proves too much of a task for him to pull off.

Podcasters Wallace (Justin Long) and Teddy (Haley Joel Osment, doing a very obvious Kevin Smith impression) earn a living broadcasting their own brand of comedy to the many fans of their show, in which they find people they find interesting and talk about them. TUSK opens with the two men laughing at a video entitled “The Kill Bill Kid”, a sword wielding man who, in the same vein as the famous “Star Wars Kid”, is seen filming himself in his garage with his sword skills. As he accidentally slices off his own leg, Wallace and Teddy laugh hysterically at his misfortune, and decide that Wallace needs to take a trip up to Manitoba to interview him for the show. (TUSK is the first instalment in what is known as Smith’s True North Trilogy.)


Upon arrival in Winnipeg, Wallace has the typical American-Canadian conversations with a customs agent (Harley from Epic Meal Time, no less) about hockey, complete with repeated apologies, showcasing Smith’s own cliched love of the Great White North. When Wallace arrives at The Kill Bill Kid’s house, he learns that he has taken his own life (with his sword, obviously) and needs to either return home, or take the opportunity to find another story to report on. Thinking his time in Canada is over, Wallace spots a handbill in the men’s room that claims its writer has many stories of adventure to share, and is willing to do so if the right person is willing to sit down and listen. Not wanting to pass up on the opportunity, Wallace contacts a Mr. Howard Howe (Michael Parks) and arranges to come up to meet him at his house two hours outside of Winnipeg. When Wallace doesn’t return home or call for three days, his girlfriend (Genesis Rodriguez) and Teddy set off to find him with the help of a Canadian gumshoe.

The first half of TUSK works incredibly well, mostly due to Smith’s ability to develop characters through witty and clever dialogue. If there is one thing he has proven he can do well throughout his filmmaking career, it would be to entice the audience with long, drawn out scenes that focus solely on dialogue.  Here, this gives us a chance to learn about Wallace and his girlfriend, and especially the insane seafarer, Howard. This only works in the first half though, up until Smith introduces us to Guy Lapointe (SPOILER ALERT, it’s Johnny Depp credited as Guy Lapointe), an alcoholic, ex-cop with a terrible, almost borderline offensive, French-Canadian accent. The scenes with Depp/Lapointe are miserably slow and his arrival ushers in TUSK‘s demise.


TUSK is a prime example of when pot smoking can lead to some very misguided ideas. The inspiration for TUSK came to Smith during one of his podcasts, or Smodcast as it is called. Smith recounted a prank he read about, in which someone said they would rent a room to someone else but only if the renter would wear a walrus suit while living there. Smith, thinking this was a hilarious idea (and it kind of is) began to hash-out just how his version of how that tale would go, and thus TUSK was born. Not all ideas should come to fruition though (especially those concocted while high and/or during a podcast). As a finished product, TUSK is an almost painfully ridiculous pseudo body horror movie that culminates in a giant letdown. There isn’t much blood and guts to really gross us out or liven things up, unlike Smith’s previous horror/thriller, RED STATE. Instead, what he gives us turns out to be far more vile, and not in a good way. It does inspire a lot of sympathy for Long though; not for his character, but for Long himself, for just being in this movie.

TUSK marks something of a departure for Smith, but ultimately it is just another low-point in his career, as it seems that his idea was far bigger than what he imagined and is even capable of handling. I am sure fanboys and Smith supporters will find something to latch on to, but those are Smith’s fans for you; they love him, no matter what, and, to be fair, he is ever grateful and appreciative in return. In fact, when Smith was initially considering making this movie, he polled his fans on Twitter asking them to vote #WalrusYes or #WalrusNo, and of course we know how that worked out. So, in the end, Smith himself gets a bit of a pass because we really have no one else to blame for this horrible movie than the fans who voted for it. Thanks a lot, guys.

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