Movie Reviews 248 – Tusk (2014)

TuskI find myself in the astonishing and unprecedented situation of reviewing a Kevin Smith written and directed movie for which I must render a less that stellar rating. The man is an exceptionally talented writer whether it be screenplays, books, comics, or even just blogging. As a whole, his movies have always been interesting, engaging, and either funny as comedies, or dramatic when serious. That is not to say that some of his past movies are without fault, but rather, the minor misgivings in the past were always forgiven when assessing the movie as a ensemble. Sadly Smith’s latest, a foray in horror, Tusk fails the litmus test and has more than a few faults that taint the overall end result.

The seed for the movie was planted during a particular episode of one of Smith’s “Smodcasts” where Smith and best friend/producer Scott Mosier discussed an ad in which a homeowner offered free lodging to anyone willing to dress up as a walrus. After discussing the temporal, moral and psychological implications (with a lot of jokes and innuendo on par for any Smith rant) the director proceeded to let fans decide whether the kooky concept should be made into a film, for which they readily voiced their approval.  Thus Tusk, a tale of a recluse serial surgical rogue who lures innocent victims to his house to be drugged and transformed into living human-walruses was born.Yep, you read that right.

While the film does have a few things going for it, the script is paltry with a few exceptional scenes and not up to par with other Smith scripts which are usually a lot funnier, grittier and like Tarantino scripts, usually imbued with provocatively unique views on otherwise mundane topics. Worse, the script is not the only under performer here.

Wallace Bryton (Justin Long) and Teddy Craft (Haley Joel Osment) host the popular podcast, The Not-See Party (get it?) where they deride and mock online videos and personalities that aren’t playing with a full 52 card deck. When their podcast scores big when mocking a kid who’s video shows him slicing off his own leg while mimicking Jedi moves with a sword, Wallace decides to fly down to Manitoba to interview the kid in person. Arriving only to find that the kid had the gall to die of his wounds, he tries to find some other local nutjob to salvage his trip. He thinks he may have found his answer while reading a washroom bulletin board notice from an old sailor wanting to share stories, positing that anyone crazy enough to even post such a bulletin must surely be fooder for their show.

Upon arrival at the poster’s home Wallace meets one Howard Howe (Michael Parks, a ‘go to’ favored thespian of both Smith and Tarantino), a man who among the many hardships endured included being a former Duplessis orphan, and was once shipwrecked which led to him befriending a Walrus. But Howe had a score to settle with that Walrus and ever since that encounter he has been trying plying his crude surgical skills on luckless victims aiming to create a Franken-Walrus. Wallace of course becomes Howe’s next victim, slowly and barbarically, a few stitches at a time.

Smith being a diehard admirer and supporter of all things Canuck should know better than to pepper a film with lame, uninspired Canadian jokes mocking “Eh?”, DeGrassi, Hockey and the holiest of holies, Poutine. Ok, I’ll give him the DeGrassi jab since he really is a fan and even had a role in the revival. But the jokes are mostly ‘easy’ stabs and not original in any way. I guess I can be thankful that he shunned Beaver Tail jokes which would have been right up his alley.

But the worst offence in this script is the inclusion of the bumbling Sûreté du Québec officer Guy Lapointe credited as “Guy Lapointe”, but in reality played by Johnny Depp. Perhaps Depp had an inkling of where this movie was going. Other notable failures include pronouncing Maurice Duplessis’ name ending with ‘sis’ instead of ‘see’, something anybody should know unless this was only researched online. Minor, but hard to believe anybody working on the set didn’t pick this up.

Some of the finer moments of the film include a great performance by Parks (as always) and some crazy shit effects and prosthesis/costumes for the Walrus transformation. Hell, just attempting that is cool. In the end one of the few reasons I can understand someone wanting to watch this for that crazy story.

First truly disappointing film by Kev. Hope this is not a portent of things to come, although this is supposed to be an endeavour that promises to be a trio of films in what is being called the True North Trilogy. Sometimes we hurt the ones we love most, and everyone knows Smith loves Canada. You do the math.

Tusk? Tsk tsk.

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