Tusk is a strange beast, a crazy little movie that really could have only been made by Kevin Smith. And while the film is definitely not for everyone, it manages to at least keep things lively and interesting throughout, even after the novelty of its premise starts to wear thin.
Kevin Smith’s Tusk stars Justin Long as Wallace Bryton, a successful podcaster who makes his way to Canada for an interview with the internet sensation known as “The Kill Bill Kid.” However, when things don’t go as planned for Wallace, he finds himself desperate for material for the next week’s podcast episode. Quite by chance, Wallace stumbles upon an ever-so-intriguing “roommate” ad in the men’s bathroom of a bar that changes his life forever. His interest piqued, Wallace decides to interview the ad’s writer, an eloquent old man named Howard Howe, who has an entire arsenal of tales to tell.
What starts out as a lively conversation quickly takes a turn for the worse when Wallace passes out on the floor of Howard Howe’s mansion. After waking up drugged and restrained in a wheel chair, Wallace learns of the old man’s true intentions: to turn him into a walrus.
The movie is written and directed by Kevin Smith (Clerks, Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back), and it is worth mentioning that the entire premise of the film was conceived on episode 259 of Smodcast, one of the many podcasts Kevin Smith puts out every week. In the episode, Smith and co-host Scott Mosier came across an ad on a website called Gumtree. The ad was allegedly put out by an old man seeking a roommate. The room and board would be free, but the catch was that the tenant must dress up and act like a walrus for two hours a day.
“Does it end well?” Smith asks on the podcast, and from that point on, he and Mosier were off, crafting all three acts for the film that, by all accounts, should not have even been made.
The entirety of Tusk is an elaborate in-joke to fans of Kevin Smith’s podcasts, and for those who understand Smith’s humor and the film’s true tongue-in-cheek aspects, it is likely to work incredibly well. For those unfamiliar, the movie may just feel like a long, drawn-out, one-note joke. And to a degree, they’d be correct.
While Tusk only clocks in at one hour and forty minutes, it feels much longer. The entire side plot that follows Wallace’s girlfriend (Genesis Rodriguez) and his podcast co-host (Haley Joel Osment), while entertaining at times — especially near the end — ultimately feels like filler. In true Smith fashion, dialogue scenes often go on for much longer than they really need to. Between the overly-eloquent walrus-loving Howard Howe, and the quirky French-Canadian detective introduced in the second half of the film, there is probably a good ten minutes of straight dialogue that could have been cut.
Self-indulgent scripts aside, Tusk managed to be intriguing throughout. As soon as one aspect of the story became stale, Smith would throw in an extra element that would shake things up a bit. And at the end of the day, one simply has to know how the entire thing plays out.
Squeamish folk best steer clear of this one, as the movie treads in some truly disturbing territory (despite its ridiculous nature). Those unwilling to take the premise at its ridiculous face value will probably find little here to like as well, for the film never concerns itself with being high art.
On a purely objective level, Tusk is for two types of people: Kevin Smith fans, and horror junkies. Taking into account the story behind the story, however, Tusk is an admirable piece of work from a director who considered himself out of the filmmaking game. The fact that one can trace its origins, production, and release throughout the episodes of Smodcast is unique and almost beautiful.
So is Tusk Kevin Smith’s big comeback film? Yes and no. It’s an interesting piece of work, to say the least, but it will likely not find much popularity outside of his core demographic (though the folks at Wired think it may change the horror genre for the better). Many of Smith’s filmmaking flaws (like telling more than showing) continue into Tusk, though he’s had tremendous visual growth in the years since Red State. Overall, Tusk is a fun ride, though not one everyone should be taking.
Did you get a chance to check out Tusk? If so, what are you thoughts on Kevin Smith’s latest opus?
[Image Credit: Tusk‘s Official Trailer]