Release: Friday, September 19, 2014
Written by: Kevin Smith
Directed: Kevin Smith
No walruses were harmed during the making of this film, though you better believe the human component didn’t fair so well. Particularly those in the audience.
Kevin Smith I find a gamble even at the best of times. His scripts, though often clever, intelligent — laced with profanity, sure, but that’s not part of it — and fairly accurate reflections of small-time American life, frequently tread the line as to whether there’s enough material to justify a full-length feature.
If ever one was curious about life at the convenience store Smith used to work at when he was young, there’s always Clerks, a genius bit of social commentary. Then there was one in color too, as if to prove he wasn’t just being pretentious. Zack & Miri, though one of his lesser-knowns, offered an interesting take on the things people would do for one another in a time of need. It was packed full of real flesh-and-blood characters, even if categorically perverted the lot of them.
Jay & Silent Bob (how could I forget?) was yet another intimate little story involving two stoners feeling insulted for being excluded from a movie adaptation based on their life. We’re actually trending away from reality a little more here but that’s quite convenient actually, because I’m about to drop the bomb on everyone.
In 2014 we’re presented with Tusk. And don’t I feel like a fool now, thinking almost every one of his productions thus far have come at the cost of his own sobriety. Surely he had to have been tripping on some kind of amazing hallucinogenic when conjuring up some of these outings. No, I stand corrected. We have finally found that which exists as purely one drug addict at a party’s proposition to another, laid prostrate on the ground, foaming at the fucking mouth:
“Hey, I know what’ll make for a good movie: let’s shove a pair of walrus tusks up someone’s face as part of an homage to the weird-looking mammal, one in which the victim is a complete douche and deserves virtually everything that happens to him. Here’s the kicker: we won’t tell Tom Six about how much we really enjoyed his experiment!” (Six was the director of that horrible thing some might affectionately refer to as The Human Centipede.)
What you’ll find here is hardly a rip-off of that production. Tusk is superior in its construction, and possibly even in its conception. One major difference is Smith’s decision to fuse comedic elements together with its horrifying content. Unfortunately another is that Smith half-assedly presents his case. There’s too much talk-talk and not enough warrooo-warrooo (that’s the sound a human-turned-walrus makes), and the build-up shows footprints after being trampled on in order to deliver a gimmick that can’t in any way, shape or form be taken seriously. Make no mistake: the walrus, visually, is a huge disappointment.
Wallace Bryton (Justin Long. . .in the tooth) and his buddy Teddy (The Sixth Sense‘s very own Haley Joel Osment) run a semi-successful podcast based out of Los Angeles. They call their show the Not-See Party. See what they did there? When a story idea presents itself to Wallace, he takes off for the land of funny-talking Americans (boy does Kevin Smith hate Canada) in search of his next opportunity to blow off his extremely attractive girlfriend who is with him for some unexplained reason. That these two are together is, when compared, the kind of cinematic injustice one can get over in a hurry. He fails to return, however, after stumbling upon a much more interesting lead.
A note in a bathroom beckons the tragically curious to an isolated mansion located on the outskirts of civilization (a.k.a. Manitoba). Wallace comes, he sees, but does he conquer? Tusk no. Neither does the polarizing Kevin Smith, whose life work may be best summarized as some of the most inspiring and ambitious slacker cinema. Tusk succeeds in grossing out the audience but only for a very brief period of time. The shock value is quickly ousted by bouts of hilarity, but we’re never sure if we’re laughing with the director or at him. And the ending is bound to leave the average audience in a most befuddled state.
Tusk is best summed up as wire-to-wire disappointment. Unable to truly capitalize on horror until too late, one thing it does have going for it is a delightfully sinister performance from Michael Parks, who plays some deranged Canadian version of Jigsaw, bent on establishing a relationship with the only thing he can seemingly identify with. Also, see this for another virtually unrecognizable Johnny Depp. But I have the distinct feeling these things aren’t the primary reason audiences are lining up to see this ‘truly transformative tale.’
Recommendation: Smith’s latest is as bizarre as — if not more so than — advertised. But it fails perhaps more than anyone might have imagined. Put it this way, when Fleetwood Mac’s “Tusk” hits, and you find yourself actually getting into the film, it’s a testament to how long we’ve been awaiting a distraction. Or, how much we really dislike the lead character. A recognizable song trumps any of the events on screen. I started tapping my legs. . .the legs that I still have. I started fidgeting in my seat. I had forgotten how good that song is. I highly encourage a rental rather than shelling out money to the theater for this one. It hardly beckons to be experienced on a big screen.
Running Time: 102 mins.
Quoted: “I don’t wanna die in Canada!”
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