Kevin Smith stumbles into the abyss with Tusk

by Mark Burger

Tusk marks a distinct and disastrous change of pace for filmmaker Kevin Smith. He’s made good films (Chasing Amy), funny films (Clerks), controversial films (Dogma), some disappointments (Jersey Girl, Cop-Out) and some amusing throwaways (Mallrats, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back) but nothing as catastrophic as this. Its name is Tusk, but it might well be christened “Kevin’s Gate.”

In more ways than one, the film is a complete monstrosity.

The film is based on one of Smith and Scott Mosier’s “SModCast” broadcasts “” “inspired” would be too positive a term, particularly in this review “” and apparently the first in Smith’s planned film trilogy of films set in Canada (though the on-screen Canadian environs are actually nearer to Charlotte, N.C.). It’s barely conceivable that a follow-up would be as bad as this, or even that there would be a follow-up to this.

Justin Long, sporting a bad mustache, portrays a popular pod-caster who travels solo to Canada for a broadcast but is instead waylaid to the remote Winnipeg manse of one Howard Howe (Quentin Tarantino’s favorite actor Michael Parks, doing his best Patrick McGoohan impression).

Before you can say Misery “” but not before you experience it “” Long is drugged, dissected and essentially reassembled as a walrus by his loquaciously looney host. That’s right, a walrus.

“Mr. Tusk” by name, actually. A little of Long goes a long way (no pun intended), and turning him into a walrus goes far beyond the limit.

In not-very-hot pursuit are neglected girlfriend Genesis Rodriguez and fellow pod-caster Haley Joel Osment (who just seems along for the ride and contributes absolutely nothing), who have also been having an affair on the sly. While Long’s Mr. Tusk bellows and wails in Howe’s capture “” his character entirely devoid of empathy, be he human or walrus “” a zany Canadian detective is introduced to, ostensibly, move things along.

He’s billed, both as character and actor, as Guy Lapointe, but he’s Johnny Depp by any other name. Both Depp and the top-billed Parks enjoy their effective moments, but given the sheer dearth of anything to work from, even their shtick turns stale before too long.

Although Robert Kurtzman’s makeup effects are suitably grotesque, Tusk is essentially a failure on every level. If the film is meant to be some sort of parable about humanity or the lack thereof, Smith undermines the intent by incorporating humor.

If the film is meant to be a satire, it fails because the humor isn’t funny. The laughs simply aren’t there. Nor is any semblance of interest or involvement.