Achingly Dull, ‘Tusk’ Lacks Any Bite

GameStop, Inc.

tusk-1

Kevin Smith has become an easy target for criticism lately. Once the cinematic ambassador for geek culture, Smith has mostly turned his back to cinema, and cinema to him, in favor of podcasting and pursuing other ventures. On one of his many podcasts, Smith and Clerks producer Scott Mosier talked about a personal ad where a man was seeking a companion. In exchange for free room and board, the person would have to spend 2 hours a day dressed as a walrus. In a matter of moments, Smith was envisioning a horror film based upon this ad. In just over a year after the podcast, Smith has finished his podcast inspired film, Tusk. Maybe he should’ve taken a bit more time.

Wallace Bryton (Justin Long) is a podcaster on his show the Not-See Party. After viewing a YouTube video where a teen accidentally chops his leg off with a samurai sword, Wallace travels to Canada to interview the unfortunate youth. Upon his arrival Wallace learns that kid had killed himself. Wallace fears that his trip has been wasted until he comes across an interesting handbill in a bar restroom. He travels hours to the home of Howard Howe (Michael Parks), a former sailor with worldly tales with which he promises to regale Wallace. Howard drugs Wallace with the intention of transforming him into a walrus. After a few days, Wallace’s girlfriend, Ally (Genesis Rodriguez), and his podcasting partner, Teddy (Haley Joel Osment), embark on a search for their missing friend. Along their search they encounter Guy LaPointe (a big-time star credited as Guy LaPointe), an investigator who has been hunting the psychotic Howe for years.

Tusk’s flaws are remarkable similar to the flaws in Smith’s previous film, Red State. Seemingly enraptured by Michael Park’s readings of his own words, Smith sacrifices pacing in favor of long, drawn out scenes of monologues. No matter how good Parks is, he can’t save the film from its own slipshod construction. Nearly every scene rambles on well past their logical end. The humor of the film is simplistic, relying on jokes about how Canadians say “a-boot” or referencing the Star Wars Kid video from over a decade ago. Smith gets all the mileage possible from the Not-See Party podcast. The entire joke around Guy LaPointe is an A-List celebrity playing a French Canadian. Then there’s the absurd over-reliance on flashbacks. Every character gets at least one lengthy flashback. Tusk is never as funny as it thinks itself, nor is it as shocking and grotesque as it should be.

Though Smith seems more confident behind the camera, he can’t make Tusk into anything resembling a coherent movie. For a story that purports to be a bizarre horror tale, Tusk never manages to provide gross out moments, or anything to really make you squirm. Sadly, even the make-up effects underwhelm. This is one of those movies that can’t achieve its simple goals. When it aims for laughs, you groan. When it aims for scares, you laugh. Though Smith fails in nearly every aspect, no failure is greater than as the film’s editor. Its lethargic pacing makes the film an agonizing experience, dreadfully dull.

There was a time when it seemed that Kevin Smith would be an interesting voice in cinema. That was long ago. Smith has shifted his focus towards podcasting, and it’s likely a better use of his voice. Like a podcast, Tusk seems like it was written over one evening, a collection of random thoughts. I can’t in good conscience recommend Tusk to anyone except those who liked Red State. For all its flaws, Tusk’s greatest sin is that it’s boring. This doesn’t feel like a film by someone making their 11th feature film. It feels more like a first feature by a podcaster.

 

 

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