By Darin Skaggs
Being critical and analytical of any art does not mean you always give the piece you are analyzing just a good or bad review. Something can be quite amazing and smaller aspects that are subpar. Others could not be so good but have parts that are spectacular. Kevin Smith, whose films are viewed as mostly garbage, has made a film that is not so great with parts that are so incredible it almost drains all the bad parts away to make a wildly fun, yet disturbing film called Tusk.
Tusk is about a podcaster Wallace (Justin Long), the whole film is apparently based on a story told on Smith’s own podcast, who along with his co-host Teddy (Haley Joel Osment) take Youtube sensations and locates them for an interview. In this instance it is a young man recording himself pretending to be a character from Kill Bill who chops off his leg in the process. Wallace heads out only to find the Kill Bill guy has killed himself. Still after the tragedy he is desperate to find an interviewee, he runs across a strange letter that leads him to the home of Howard Howe (Michael Parks) who takes Wallace on one of the creepiest, sometimes hilarious journeys seen in a while.
After a few odd stories from Howe it is clear that Wallace has been drugged, he collapses and wakes up missing a leg. We find out that Howe has been kidnapping people and trying to turn them into walruses, which Howe believes to be the ultimate creature in the whole world. Teddy and Wallace’s girlfriend Ally (Genesis Rodriguez) go on a mad search to find him. This calls for so many strange and freaky moments that at times come out as gold. Most of Smith’s humor is clearly not for everyone so not all of the jokes work, but Howe’s committed performance and equally committed art direction make the film a lot better than anyone ever thought.
Parks is certainly MVP in this film, Long and Rodriguez do very well and it is fun to see Osment all grown up playing a part like this. Though what really breaks the film’s great run is an overdone, silly detective Guy Lapointe played by Johnny Depp. Not really sure why this character is here; his tone is not the same as the rest of the film, for some reason he is doing an odd accent and he takes away from the totally bonkers story of a bad person getting his comeuppance by slowly being turned into a poorly sewn together walrus who is forced to learn to swim, eat fish and communicate with the sounds of walruses.
It is all about bad actions finally catching up to you and destroying who you are and the better person you could probably be. It does not stick with those themes too long it is more interested in Howe creating his walrus friend and letting Johnny Depp do his thing. Sadly one of those work and the other does not but still it makes it a slight accomplishment on Smith’s part.