Movie Review: ‘Tusk’
Starring: Justin Long, Genesis Rodriguez, and Michael Parks
Plot: An interviewer of weird and strange people is tortured by an old man
Disclaimer: I consider myself a Kevin Smith fan and have only truly disliked one of his movies, Cop Out.
You cannot talk about this movie without talking about how Kevin Smith came to be making it. It started with a classified ad prank, which may or may not have been created to pique Smith’s fancy. It was for an older man looking for a roommate to dress and act like a walrus for 2 hours a day instead of paying rent. The old man had been shipwrecked and made friends with a walrus while stuck on an island, and he wanted to revisit that experience. Smith brought the article up on his podcast with long-time friend and producing partner, Scott Mosier. The two essentially brainstormed a horror movie based on the article about someone surgically transformed into a walrus by an old creepy man. Smith would then hold a twitter vote. Post #WalrusYes if you want to see it, or #WalrusNo if you don’t. The “yeses” have it. Cast in the leads are Smith’s new friends Michael Parks and Justin Long. Both perform excellently, but they have their contributions wasted by Smith’s larger, more ornate plans.
Parks is an old cult actor who has had something of a resurgence thanks to the likes of Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez and now Kevin Smith, who gave Parks a lead role in his Bible-thumper horror-thriller Red State. Michael Parks kicked all sorts of ass in that role, and he continues to do so here. Kevin Smith has always liked really talkative movies. His career has pretty much centered on people having conversations, and while under any other circumstances, they would be considered over-written, there was always a special kind of cadence to Smith’s movies that made all those extra words come to life. Michael Parks seems to inherently key into that cadence. Smith has gotten really lucky over the years finding people who can do that. Jason Lee, Chris Rock, George Carlin, Alan Rickman, and now Parks.
Parks sincere old gentlemen is balanced nicely against Justin Long’s crass podcaster, a usual Kevin Smith protagonist if there ever was one. Long is a very underrated actor in my opinion. He has such a way with dialog. Nothing ever seems scripted with him. There is one line in the movie, which is also in the trailer, that I am borderline obsessed with. He says, “I don’t want to die in Canada.” It is an inherently comedic line, one that could very easily sink any serious or terrifying scene. Long delivers it without a shred of irony. It is able to break the tension without Long breaking character. Unfortunately, this is where the greatness of what Kevin Smith could have accomplished with this movie ends.
The walrus transformation is too comical to take seriously. With so much prosthetics on Long, you lose much of his expressiveness. Smith also switches gears to Long’s girlfriend and best friend teaming up with a Canadian bountyhunter/PI, played by one of the biggest movie stars working in Hollywood, a role that is no where near as interesting, charming, and/or funny as it should be. A better movie exists, if only Smith was less worried about the walrus aspect. One where Long’s douchebag podcaster interviews a strange lonely man with amazing stories while Long interjects like he’s on Mystery Science Theater 3000. All I could think in that first scene with them together was, “I wish this part was longer.” By the end of the movie, I wished it was the whole thing.