I don’t think there was another movie this year that I wanted to like more than Kevin Smith’s Tusk. A horror/comedy that was born from an episode of Smith’s own podcast, Smodcast about a mad man turning Justin Long into a walrus?!? Only in this country would we not only allow this movie to be made, but there was an actual twitter campaign (#WalrusYes) that had hundreds of thousands of fans clambering for it… by clambering I mean typing 9 characters on a social media site… None the less, the masses spoke and Smith listened. I will admit that I am a fan of Smith’s Smodcast (heard the episode that birthed the idea for the movie the day it went up) and was one of the clambering mass during the successful twitter campaign. I was super excited to see Tusk. Having missed it during its initial theatrical run, I was more than happy to lay down my 10$ and enjoy a digital copy of the film. But was my months of anticipation and hard-earned cash worth it? Hard to say, but what is safe to say is Tusk is a hell of a lot better than Jersey Girl… So, Smith has that going for him.
Wallace (Justin Long) is the host of The Not-See Party (the time it takes to pronounce that is about the same amount of time for the in-movie joke about Nazis to get old) , a podcast that he does with best-friend/co-host Teddy (Haley Joel Osment). The whole schtick behind the Not-See Party (besides setting up Nazi jokes) is that Wallace travels the world and interviews interesting/weird people and then travels back and recants his interviews to Teddy (who never comes because he’s afraid to fly. Apparently, these two have never heard of Skype, or telephones which would make these podcasts more cost-effective, but what do I know. Anyway, when one of these trips in Canada to interview a YouTube sensation goes belly up, Wallace stumbles on an ad that promises a lifetime of interesting stories. So Wallace heads out into the great white wilderness to interview a guy telling stories, so he in return can be interviewed and tell stories about a guy telling him stories (I’m gonna start a podcast that is just me telling stories from a guy telling me a story about a guy telling him stories…wait… I’m confused…).
Wallace seems to hit pay dirt when he meets Howard Howe (Michael Parks) who appears filled with off the wall stories. The best of which involves being rescued by a walrus while lost at sea and forming a very natural and healthy relationship with the beast. A relationship that ends with Howard killing and eating the walrus (What?!? Am I the only one that ends all his relationships that way?!?!). Not to long after arriving Wallace is drugged and Howard reveals his true intent: To turn a human into a walrus and relive the happiest time of his life. Being stranded on a desert island with a walrus… Much as I imagine most men dream of…
Justin Long is great as the slightly obnoxious, but still endearing lead who was walking the path to a terrible fate. Even though we know were he’s going to end up he made it easy to root for him. Michael Parks as Howard Howe might just be the best villain of the year. To put it plainly: He is fucking creepy and so unsettling at times it’s hard not to redirect your gaze from the screen to avoid those eyes. He always seems to be sizing Long up and it’s not long before we get to see just what he’s sizing him for.
For the first 60 of the 90 minutes Kevin Smith had the best movie of his career (and this is coming from a life long, die-hard Clerks fan!). It was shot beautifully and had an interesting story. Great characters, interesting (if not silly) story that promises to be just as weird and unsettling as we hope it will be. Then the hour mark hits and Guy LaPointe (SPOILER ALERT: It’s Johnny Depp, if you don’t already know) a goofy Canadian private detective, shows up and this quirky/unsettling story takes a turn for whacky town and totally loses its atmosphere. Johnny Depp was once one of the most original actors on earth and would take on interesting and weird roles. Then him and Tim Burton sold their souls and were cursed to create weird CGI remakes with Helen Bohnam Carter for the rest of time. What a cruel and unfair fate.
That first hour of Tusk balances the horror and comedy perfectly.That is not an easy thing to do.Watching Justin Long simulate oral sex with a petrified walrus penis while Michael Parks sneers is the perfect metaphor of this balance. Sadly, this all goes to hell when LaPointe hits the screen and Smith shifts gear for full comedy. Worse of all it’s not that funny and Smith has been making me laugh for damn near 20 years. Having star power like Depp should have helped sell this flick, but that damn curse was just to strong.
Despite the jarring and unnecessary shift tone with the LaPointe character, Tusk was still a good movie. BUT I was hoping for a great movie and if you subtract about 20 minutes of Depp screen time we would have just that. To bad the ability to edit digital media is something reserved exclusively for the extremely wealthy and not just anyone with a laptop and a lot free time can do it. Oh well, here’s to hoping the Clerks III Johnny Depp cameo gets left on the editing floor.