Movie a Day Blog can feel its nasty juices heating up, a condition of extreme displeasure with cinematic failure. The latest and most deserving victim is TUSK (2014), Kevin Smith’s newest and stupidest film to date, a hopelessly lame exercise in stoyrtelling, acting and direction.
There have been many Kevin Smiths in movie history: directors who made one or two interesting movies, and then began an inevitable and ever steeper descent into mediocrity. For Smith, the good films came early and brought him fame and success: CLERKS (1994) and CHASING AMY (1997). There was a time when I actually looked forward to the next Kevin Smith film.
But a modicum of talent takes one only so far, and it was apparent as early as DOGMA (1999) and JERSEY GIRL (2004) that Smith really didn’t have that much to say, or was particularly adept at saying it. His films became all bravado and bad-boy behavior, crudely expressed and clearly intended to delight an audience of one, Kevin Smith.
But TUSK takes him to a new low. Like most of his characters who originate from his personal life, Justin Long plays a podcaster who ventures to Canada in search of a gruesome story and stumbles on another one that exceeds his wildest dreams. He picks up a flier in a men’s room that leads him to Michael Parks, the former TV star who has grizzled nicely, is now wheelchair-bound and is really good for about the first 10 minutes of his explanatory monologue to Long.
It turns out that old salt Parker has a major thing for a particular walrus, an aquatic mammal named Mr. Tusk who he claims saved him when he was shipwrecked years earlier. Parker discusses the Walrus (no John Lennon jokes here) as almost a god, and it turns out he has a sacrifice to that god in mind.
It’s no spoiler to disclose that Long becomes the Walrus, wearing a horrible stitched-together coat of human skin, hands and feet reduced to flippers, and two nasty-looking tusks jammed into his nostrils. To Smith and his intended audience, this is downright hilarious, I’m sure. But its impact certainly wasn’t helped by the reveal coming less than halfway through the movie, leaving Smith to do a whole lot of nothing for the remaining hour or more.
Mostly we get to hear and see Long scream in guttural pain (did I mention that his tongue was cut-out, too?) and flap disconsolately around in his little swimming pool. The ostensible plot, not that its believable for a moment, has his co-podcaster Haley Joel Osment (who has not aged well) and Long’s girlfriend Genesis Rodriguez searching the Frozen North for the missing Long. But it’s not until an uncredited (and bearing a badly-constructed French Canadian nose) Johnny Depp shows up as Detective Guy LaPointe, who is this film’s Inspector Poirot, that the crime is solved posthaste.
Unfortunately, it’s too late for Long and those in the audience who suffer only slightly less than he does. Smith is trying to do THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE (2009) Lite, and make you laugh at it, too, a tall order in the hands of a talented filmmaker. Smith can basically just flail at the art form now, and TUSK reveals just how low he’s willing to go in pursuit of an audience. I’ll be surprised if he finds one with this film.