Is it possible that in “Tusk,” as an actor, Justin Long, makes for a better walrus than he does in portraying a human being? Based on this performance, the answer has to be “yes.”
With “Tusk,” writer and director Kevin Smith proves once again that he has a creative mind like no one else in Hollywood. Based on Smith’s SModcast 259 The Walrus and the Carpenter, “Tusk” is the story of wise guy podcaster, Wallace Bryton (Justin Long), who has a show with fellow shock jock, Teddy Craft (Haley Joel Osment). They call their podcast “The Not-See Party,” in which Wallace finds videos of people doing a variety of stupid things, shows them to Teddy, and the two then make fun of the people on their respective videos. Wallace decides to follow up on one story—someone called “The Kill Bill Kid,” who accidentally sliced one on his legs while performing a stunt. “Kill Bill” lives in Manitoba, Canada, so after saying goodbye to his girlfriend, Ally (Genesis Rodriguez), it’s off to Canada Wallace goes. Once there he discovers that his story is no longer viable. Not wanting to waste the money his flight cost, Wallace decides to look for some other strange story in Manitoba. A handbill in a restroom bar provides him with just the ticket. The handbill is from Howard Howe (Michael Parks), offering free lodging for the opportunity to hear his lifetime of stories. Wallace’s curiosity is piqued, so he makes his way to Howe’s estate and what an estate it is!
Howe, confined to a wheelchair, appears to be the ever-so-gracious host and he does have some truly great stories to tell. Over tea, he reminisces about trips with Hemingway and others. Wallace is fascinated and doesn’t realize his tea has been laced with drugs. He passes out and when he awakens, Wallace finds himself strapped in a wheelchair and that’s just for starters. To tell more of his fate would ruin the movie’s “fun.”
Wallace has not been forgotten by Ally and Teddy who haven’t heard from him in a few days. Then they both receive a strange, disturbing voice mail from him and come to the conclusion that something bad has happened to him. They take off for Manitoba and meet with a local detective, Frank Garmin (Ralph Garman) who puts them in touch with Guy Lapointe, a former Quebec cop who has been hunting Howe for years. Together they go off in search of Wallace.
Thankfully, the success of “Tusk” doesn’t rise or fall on its acting. Truth be told, Justin Long isn’t all that good and in human form, he is in the movie a great deal. Granted, his character is not very likeable, but it feels like something more could have been brought to his performance. But when called upon to do other things, he really sizzles. Parks as Howe is riveting, and it’s easy to see how Wallace could be seduced by him. Although it’s nice to see Osment back on the screen, he’s not given much to do, but he does shine in his early scenes with Long. Genesis Rodriguez does a fine job as the girlfriend who’s too good for Wallace (or so we think). But Michael Parks aside, it is the unbilled, uncredited actor as Guy Lapointe who steals the show.
Truly only Kevin Smith could imagine something so bizarrely entertaining as “Tusk.” And if you’re a “Clerks” aficionado like me, you will definitely appreciate the scenes in the Canadian convenience store which are absolutely hysterical.
Your first reaction to “Tusk” might be, “what was that?” Part creepy…part very creepy…and part weirdly funny, you might not know what to think about what you’ve just seen. “Tusk” is definitely not for everyone. But if you love Kevin Smith as I do, “Tusk” should definitely be on your movie-viewing list.