Kevin Smith: He is the walrus. Coo coo ca choo.
Wallace Bryton (Justin Long) is a bit of a jerk, but he gets by on running a podcast with his good buddy (Haley Joel Osment) and banging his smokin’ hot girlfriend (Génesis Rodríguez), even though he’s a total dick to both of them. Lately though, Wallace has felt like his podcast needs a bit of a energizing-up, so he decides to venture out to Canada where he’ll interview a kid who became famous after a video of him accidentally slicing off his own leg with a samurai sword goes viral and entitles him as “Kill Bill Kid”. However, sadly for Wallace, he finds out that Kill Bill Kid has passed away, which leaves the poor pod-caster in the dumps. That is, until he sees a notice for a sit-down with a man who promises to tell interesting stories. Wallace sees no harm in it at first, even if the man (Michael Parks), seems a bit creepy. But eventually, the harm becomes all too real and wouldn’t you know it, the creepy old man actually has Wallace over for some unknown, nefarious purposes. Which, wouldn’t you know it, has him turning Wallace into a walrus.
I apologize if that spoiled the big twist for anybody but trust me, there’s no real twist to begin with as it’s been heavily talked-about since the movie’s idea had ever came to fruition.
Now, normally, I consider myself a huge, adoring fan of Kevin Smith’s work. Not only do I find him to be one of the funnier, smarter writers working in comedy today, but I also find him to be a very honest, realistic-thinking guy when it comes to his own career, Hollywood, and all of the bullshit that usually follows along with it. Sure, some of his escapades are a bit questionable and definitely make you wonder if he’s actually a nice guy underneath all those hockey jerseys, or if he’s just playing the role so well, that anybody who slightly “likes” the guy, ends up falling head-to-toes in love with him, all because he seems like them, a real person.
Except that, for the fact, that this real person writes, directs, and occasionally stars in movies for a living.
However, a part of me has been slowly, but surely dying inside ever since Kevin Smith has decided that he’s about had it up to here with being taken as a joke and only known for the potty-mouth characters he creates. While I have absolutely no problem with a film maker wanting to change their style up a bit so that they can eventually be looked at in a different light and possibly show the rest of the world what they have left to offer, other than just what they’ve been known for, I feel like what Smith has been doing ever since Red State has sort of been throwing him down a pipe-line that he can’t get out of. He wants to be taken as a serious director, yet, he also tries so hard to make this idea a reality, that he loses what made his movie so charming and enjoyable to watch, or better yet, listen to, in the first place.
And with Tusk, this is evident, except maybe even worse. Because while, yeah, Tusk is a sometimes serious, rather horrific-tale about a man being turned into a walrus, there’s still plenty of humor written into the script; none of it works, but it’s humor nonetheless. Mostly where this humor comes from is in Smith’s way of pointing to something weird, or off-kilter that Canadians do, and never letting it go. He’s sort of like the guy in your group who finds one flaw within your whole human existence and rather than confronting it one day, accepting it for what it is, and moving on so that each and every person around you two, including yourselves, can live in perfect harmony, he just constantly hammers it into the ground, not only making you feel more uncomfortable because they simply don’t get that the joke isn’t landing anywhere, anytime soon, but that they look like total dicks.
Here, in case you couldn’t, tell, Kevin Smith is the total dick and it’s just all the more disappointing for someone such as myself who has looked up to him as one of the better writers and directors in today’s day and age of comedy. And trust me, I’m not being all pissy and moany like this because Smith wasn’t giving me the return of characters like Jay, Silent Bob, or even Banky – those times are all said and done and I’m fine with that. It’s time to move on and I’m perfectly fine with that. However, if Smith can’t grow in an efficient manner, then I will continue to be unhappy. Better yet, if he can’t write funny jokes anymore that at least hold more merit than as if they were being told by a fifth-grader, then sure, I’m all for a career resurgence of sorts.
But for now, I will wait and wonder.
Mostly though, the huge problem with Tusk comes down to the fact that the story just doesn’t have enough steam to last its near two-hour run-time. It’s been made clear to anyone who pays attention to Smith’s podcast known as Smodcast that the idea for Tusk, originally came through a story he read on an episode. While it may work as a live-reading and better yet, maybe even as a short film, when given a larger-budget and more time to work with, the movie comes off incredibly meandering, ponderous, and overall, stale. You wonder if Smith had any intentions of making this story go on as long as it is, or if he just decided to say “‘eff it” with all of the money he was given and focus on parts of this story that didn’t matter.
For instance, we literally get a ten-to-fifteen-minute flashback with Wallace and his girlfriend where they’re not only sharing an intimate moment together (meaning blow-jobs), but are even revealing certain depths of their characters that we probably wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. It’s supposed to work, but because these characters are so one-dimensional as is, we don’t care for anything they’re saying, nor the scene altogether. It just feels thrown in there to add some sort of emotional-heft to an already overlong movie; one that could have ended in nearly twenty-minutes and nobody would have felt ripped-off. But you add another hour-and-thirty-minutes to that run-time, and you’ve got a whole lot of pissed off people. I’m one of them, if you couldn’t already tell by now.
And as for the cast, god bless all of their working hearts, but hardly anybody comes away unscathed from this. Justin Long is a funny guy and when, given the right material to work with, can do wonderful things. However, his role as Wallace is so one-note and prickish, you wonder if Smith thought that being a perverted, 30-something a-hole was funny, especially when you give him impressions and funny voices to do. Whatever he thinks is funny, doesn’t matter, because it’s hardly ever funny and only gets worse for Long as he then is soon made into a walrus, where we care so little for him or the situation he’s thrown into. Okay, maybe that’s a bit harsh, because it is easy to feel bad for somebody who, for no reason other than to service an already overlong script, gets transformed into a walrus, but it’s just that we don’t care for his character to begin with that really hurts him.
Then, there’s Haley Joel Osment as his best buddy who may, or may not be up-to-no-good. While it’s nice to see that Osment’s still working, and with Kevin Smith no less, this role is so dull, it makes no sense why he’s even in it to begin with. Génesis Rodríguez is here to look hot and have the camera focus in on her curvy body, and with that, she’s fine. And Michael Parks, as gifted as he may be, doesn’t have much to do as the evil scientist who turns Wallace into a walrus, as all he has to do is yell and preach a lot, about seemingly nothing really. It’s sort of like what he did in Red State, but at least that had some reasoning to be done there; here, it’s just over-bearing and random.
But the one I feel the most bad for here is Johnny Depp who, spoiler alert once again, I guess, shows up as a local Canadian detective by the name of Guy Lapointe (it’s supposed to be word play, you see). Depp literally seems like he showed up on-set one day and decided that he didn’t mind wearing a silly hat, a large nose-piece, and acting as drunk as he usually does in most of his movies. While it’s occasionally pleasing to see Depp riff into some rather strange, often interesting areas of this story that we wouldn’t have seen otherwise with a lesser-actor who was demanded to follow the script, it still doesn’t do much good for the rest of the movie as it just uses him as one punch-line and that’s it.
Nothing more, and you know what? Johnny Depp deserves more!
Consensus: While it’s nice to see Kevin Smith trying something new, Tusk is a poorly-done, overlong, and just plain stupid movie that hardly goes anywhere funny, interesting, or even entertaining. Simply put, it’s boring, but it never knows it well enough to just cease what it is doing and get to the point already.
2 / 10 = Crapola!!
Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images
Also, if any of you are at all suspicious of whether I’m not an actual fan-boy of Kevin Smith to begin with, or am just posing as one to disguise my utter disappointment with this movie, check out this link, go to 1:19:48, and listen to the question asked. You might just hear yours truly talking to a personal hero of his.
Hopefully Kevin and I can make amends in the near-future.