Movie Review: Tusk


Help! I’m stuck in a bad Kevin Smith movie! Image via Bloody Disgusting

Oh Kevin Smith, why hath thou foresaken us?

Tusk, the latest Kevin Smith joint, has received a lot of hype both for its weird premise and the weird way in which the story was first conceived. Like the scientific experiment seen onscreen, Tusk is equal parts bizarre and inexplicable. But most of all, it never justifies its reason for existence.

The idea for Tusk was spurred by an episode of Smith’s podcast. So of course, Tusk centers around a pair of podcasters who host a podcast called the Not-See Podcast. Say it out loud. That’s the only running joke this film is able to provide. What nobody told Kevin Smith is that if you have a running joke, you have to vary it a little bit. Yeah, Not-See sounds like Nazi. I didn’t get it the first ten times.

Anyway, Justin Long and Haley Joel Osmont play a pair of mismatched podcasters named Wallace Bryton and Teddy Craft. They host what I presume is the morning drive equivalent of podcasts. The two of them mainly enjoy making fun of people who make fools of themselves on the Internet. One of them is a Canadian boy who accidentally cuts his own leg off while trying to reenact Kill Bill. Wallace makes a trip up to Manitoba to interview him.

Here is Tusk‘s first big red flag: this movie tries to crate a despicable lead character. That is fine, as movies that have a-holes as main characters can be great. However, Tusk keeps telling us that Wallace is a big meanie, yet it never really convinces us as to why. Making fun of people on YouTube is what Daniel Tosh gets paid millions for. And we all know that if you’re rich, then you’re automatically a good person.

A lot of bad things happen to Wallace in Tusk, and it seems like Kevin Smith wants you to believe that he had this coming. But where is the build up. One second, Wallace is in cushy LA recording studio. And the next, he is deep in the Canadian woods with a deranged mad man (Michael Parks) who wants to turn him into a walrus. But the movie never takes anytime to explore his Los Angeles relationships. Sure, a few flashbacks are clumsily incorporated. However, those moments could have been strung together to make a solid first act that would have served as the film’s emotional backbone.

Changes like that could have been made if there had been a rewrite. Now, I have no proof that Kevin Smith didn’t rewrite Tusk, but I have a strong suspicion that he didn’t even bother. Tusk started off as a story Smith and his co-host made up in a podcast episode. I wish it stayed that way. I feel like a lot of the story might have actually worked if it just remained in podcast form. Once you see the actual walrus creation, it is hard to know if you should be frightened or amused. Tusk lingers between horror and comedy. It can never quite decide which one it wants to be. It could have been both, but it doesn’t even want to do that, either. Hey man, whatever will get you that paycheck fastest.

Being so harsh on Kevin Smith, because I am a huge fan. Well, at least I am a huge fan of the Kevin Smith who made Clerks, Mallrats, and Dogma. Being a cinephile at age 12 and then getting to see Clerks is like a revelation. But everything that made him so cool in the 90s seems to have vanished. I hate to say that he’s gone too mainstream, but he has gone from writing politically charged monologues about the Death Star to actually getting to visit the set of Star Wars. In Tusk, Johnny Depp (oh yeah, he’s in it) mentions The Big Lebowski one time and we are all expected to magically applaud. Oh cool, you’ve heard of a movie that we have also heard of! How relatable! With a few Degrassi references to boot, Tusk is a parody of a Kevin Smith film written by somebody who also has a thing for walrus erotica.

While others seem to be rooting for its downfall, I really wanted to like Tusk. I was hoping a guy who helped pave the way for podcasts everywhere might have something insightful to say about it. Instead, Tusk is lost miles up Kevin Smith’s own self-referential ass, in search of an editor.

Brain Farts From The Edge

  • When Waterworld came out, many people referred to it as “Kevin’s Gate” and “Fishtar,” as a way to mock what a big flop it was. Both those nicknames could apply to Tusk. For now, let’s just assume that a walrus is a type of fish.
  • Kevin Smith is one of those directors who draws a lot of strong feelings out of people, whether positive or negative. He’s like Wes Anderson in jorts!
  • Tusk could be used as propaganda for anti-Marijuana legalization.
  • Canada jokes were always a big part of the View Askewniverse. But like I said, this is a parody of a Kevin Smith film. We get it, they like maple syrup and hockey. Smith seems like he’s ten years behind; How I Met Your Mother owns the market on Canada jokes. And it’s not even on the air anymore.
  • Haley Joel Osment. He’s still alive.
  • Michael Parks. Let’s give him some credit here. An amazing actor who deserves mainstream recognition.
  • Part of me just the film stayed in LA and was just a meandering look at the lives of podcasters. As somebody who has forayed into that world, I would have found that much more relatable. If somebody pitched to me “Mallrats but with podcasters,” I would buy it on the spot.
  • “BM in the PM’s coffee.” Okay, that line got me.
  • I can’t knock Kevin Smith for his ambition. There is an interesting idea in here. “What makes man? What makes walrus?” Maybe Smith should have thought a little more before asking everyone on Twitter if he should make a movie. #WalrusNo