Anyone who’s ever seen any Kevin Smith film knows that he has a penchant for the weird, funny, and sometimes horrifying. These three words are basically what sums up his latest film, Tusk. There are obnoxious and semi-unlikable characters, bizarre events, and yet it’s all somehow disturbingly funny, which is exactly what we’ve come to expect. Tusk might not be a movie that everyone might want to watch (if you have a queasy stomach, beware!), but it does have its moments regardless of its many flaws.
Radio hosts of the strangely clever and simultaneously stupid “Not-See Party” podcast, Wallace (Justin Long)–the irony of his name will hit you later–and Teddy (Haley Joel Osment) make a living by making fun of people. The Kill Bill Kid on YouTube running around fighting with a sword and ends up slicing off his own leg? Yup, Wallace and Teddy are all over it. They’re just dying of laughter. They think this kind of stuff is so entertaining, and lusciously ironic in the case of the kid on YouTube, that Wallace flies to Canada in order to talk to the kid for the show.
His chances of talking to the infamous teen are shattered before even getting past the doorstep to his home. Wallace thinks he and Teddy are screwed because they now have nothing for the next show. But, and whether it’s by sheer dumb luck or something else, Wallace finds a note pinned to the bulletin right in front of a urinal at a local store. Now, why there’s a bulletin in the men’s bathroom is another matter completely, but you know, it’s Kevin Smith, so I digress.
Wallace immediately gets this mysterious letter-writing, bulletin-posting guy on the phone. Turns out, good ol’ Howard Howe (Michael Parks) doesn’t live too far from where he’s staying. After their initial meeting, Howard kidnaps Wallace and the old man’s twisted mind is convinced that he can keep Wallace and make him into someone, or something else. And that, ladies and gentleman, is a walrus.
Yes, you read that sentence correctly. No, I didn’t mean to type something else. The premise, and frankly the film itself, is equal parts disturbing, twisted, filled with dark humor and Johnny Depp as a long-suffering ex-cop by the name of Guy Lapointe who meanders about while telling tales and giving explanations to Wallace’s friend and girlfriend (Genesis Rodriguez), who’ve come to help find Wallace.
Behind the… interesting premise, there’s a story of a man with deep psychological issues, a man who’s changed for the worse and practically has karma biting him in the ass, and the lengths someone will go to recreate the only time he’s ever felt safe and loved. It’s disturbing, yet sad. After all, Howard Howe pretty much answers the question our ancestors have been asking since we took our first steps: “Is man indeed a walrus?”
While there are definitely moments to like, cringe, or laugh at, the film’s run time is too long and the conversations far too dragged-out for it to be completely enthralling. After certain turn of events, Tusk becomes a little daunting to watch because you know what the outcome will be, but there isn’t much left to tell after these events have come to fruition. Outside of being darkly funny in a very demented and disturbing way, the film lags behind after its second act and never really finds its way back. One thing is certainly clear though: Kevin Smith has some imagination and plenty of bizarre ideas.