Tusk Movie Review
Written by Karin Crighton
Released by A24 Films
Written and directed by Kevin Smith2014, 110 minutes, Rated RTheatrical release on September 19th, 2014
Justin Long as Wallace
Haley Joel Osment as Teddy
Genesis Rodgriguez as Ally
Michael Parks as Howard
Boorish, loudmouth Wallace Bryton (Justin Long) is pretty pissed the boy who maimed himself in a home video committed suicide before Wallace could interview him for his best friend Teddy’s “Not See Party” podcast, called so because Teddy does not see these interviews first hand. Desperate to salvage his trip to Winnipeg, Wallace spies a peculiar poster on a bulletin board and replies to its author. Only after his arrival to the mysterious Howard Howe’s reclusive manor does Wallace find out the sadistic and psychotic nature of the old man. His vicious nature culminates with his attempts to transform Wallace into the aquatic companion he lost long ago...a walrus. You read that right.
Tusk is particularly disappointing in light of Kevin Smith’s body of thoughtful, intelligent work. Never funny enough to be a farce, not smart enough to be a commentary on tropes, and too ludicrous to be a classic horror, this movie flounders about the screen as awkwardly as Justin Long in a walrus suit.
Michael Parks does a solid job as the psychotic Howard Howe and his turn as a Canadian hillbilly to throw off Johnny Depp’s homicide detective is inspired, but there are moments during the exposition where he seems completely lost, which may have been the case. The direction seems to offer the actors little help as to whether their scenes are comedic or dramatic and the performances reflect that.
Parks’ performance at least offers contrast to Long’s Wallace, who shouts all his lines until the audience’s ears bleed. If he’s supposed to represent Americans in other countries...well that’s fair, but either way the obnoxious bravado of Wallace isn’t justified by “hotness” or intelligence. His references to Hemingway and the Rime of the Ancient Mariner seem thrown in at the last minute to give flavor to an otherwise moronic character. How Wallace claims to hook up with attractive women while traveling around is surprising and doubtful. Especially when he has beautiful Ally (Genesis Rodriguez) at home loving him...and sleeping with his best friend at the same time.
Ally is especially insulting. First, Rodriguez appears half naked performing oral sex on Wallace. Her next scene she’s wearing their podcast tee shirt (cut so it can hang over her shoulder to reveal her bra), weeping over how Wallace treats her so poorly, but she stays with him so she can cheat on him behind her back. The next time we see her she’s in a crop top and small shorts, revealing more skin than covering. It’s a vulgar portrayal as a woman as a sexual object helpless to the whims of love, conniving and weak in the end of it all. There is no reason for her to be in the movie; her character could have easily been written out. I believe it was feminist critic Anita Sarkeesian who said it best with, “…there is a difference between a woman existing in a story and having a love interest and existing in a story solely to be a love interest.” This is heavily paraphrased, but you get the point.
Knowing Smith can write social commentary on the slacker generation (Clerks), confront the nebulous world of sexuality and relationships (Chasing Amy), and find a way to make religion relevant to a bored and detached generation (Dogma), it’s hard to see why he’d release something so slapdash and frankly stupid as Tusk. Joss Whedon already made a self-mocking horror with Cabin in the Woods, which wasn’t my favorite, but made a better point about the industry without insulting me. Moreover, I was extremely disturbed at Howe detailing the abuse he faced as a child that led him to this point when it was revealed Tusk is supposed to be a comedy. That shit is not a joke and it’s not funny.
The only entertaining bit of Tusk is Johnny Depp, appearing under the borrowed name Guy Lapointe (fun fact: the real Guy Lapointe contributed to the Canadiens winning hte Stanley Cup six times!). Depp is a master of subtle comedy and if you for some reason need to see this movie, fast forward until the last twenty minutes to watch him work. He understands the proper tone of the movie better than any other actor and if it hadn’t been for him, I probably would have walked out.
Kevin Smith can do better; wait for his next film.