03/21/2016 - I'm really not a fan of Kevin Smith. I believe he's made two very good movies (Clerks and Chasing Amy), two more that are at least enjoyable (Dogma and Red State), and a whole lot of forgettable junk. Tusk starts strong, with a surprising and intriguing premise, but it loses steam as it bumbles forward; Smith wanders off in all the wrong directions. It's a horror/comedy that could've been more haunting, but isn't because it's trying way too hard to be funny. The cast is good (mostly) and the makeup effects are adequate; the idea is pretty great, actually - enough to make it a frustrating watch. It's not entirely without merit, but by the end it really just becomes another entry in the Smith waste bin.
Justin Long stars the mustache-wearing, arrogant and increasingly annoying podcaster Wallace Bryton, who's Canada-bound to fuel his show and maybe cheat on his girl (Genesis Rodriguez, who's already doing some cheating with buddy Haley Joel Osment). Of course, none of this really matters; these characters and their relationship tangles are either forgettable or regrettable, or both. Justin Long does well enough here, but he's given so little to work with - also, giving him a mustache and naming him Wallace is amateur and freakin' stupid, sorry. His is a character which, like the film, has a promising start but slowly redefines itself as annoying and pointless.
The real nail in this coffin, though, is Johnny Depp. I know there are people out there, probably the same crowd keeping reality television viable, who think Johnny Depp could make nary a misstep. Well, they're wrong, of course; here, Johnny Depp falls flat on his ass. His puffy-faced rendition of a North American Inspector Clouseau is infuriating in its bloated persistence to stay on the screen. I sincerely considered turning the movie off because he simply wouldn't stop. It's bad, it's not funny, and it really is more upsetting and disturbing than anything else in the movie.
The highlight (and partial redemption) of this film is Michael Parks as Howard Howe, the twisted and truly frightening antagonist who captures and transforms his unsuspecting victims. A perfectly executed nihilist, Howe hates human nature and finds his (and humanity's) existence meaningless, revering instead a walrus that once saved his life. His obsession drives him to recreate the walrus (one Mr. Tusk at a time) in an attempt to avenge its sacrifice and, himself, die justly. Parks, as always, is excellent; a captivating and thought-provoking performance that will stick with you, once you can manage to forget the rest of the movie.
Tusk is a visually satisfying film. The cinematography is admirable, keeping you in the tone and feel of the story until Johnny Depp comes in and starts kicking things around like a spoiled child. The makeup effects are equally satisfying and grotesque and strange, making you cringe but never want to look away until Kevin Smith decides to derail the whole damn movie with some ridiculous subplot or supporting character backstory or yet another joke about Canadians.
Look, I enjoy poking fun at Canadians as much as anyone else (that's a thing, right?). And where this movie does that well, it succeeds as a comedy. In fact, I really enjoyed the light-hearted feel of the opening that slowly began to descend as the story got darker. It was gripping and interesting, like a fresh take on Misery, something that could have stuck with you and lived on in your irrational fears of what-could-happen. Instead, this flick is largely forgotten or dismissed or flat-out loathed. Tusk is an interesting idea that's partly well-executed but ultimately a drifting mess, anchored only by a very solid Michael Parks.