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article imageReview: Kevin Smith combines humour and body horror in ‘Tusk’ Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Oct 3, 2014 in Entertainment
With his latest post-retirement project, ‘Tusk,’ writer/director Kevin Smith tests the value of ideas conceived when one is high with mixed results.
It can be argued that the subjects of Kevin Smith's movies have become chronologically more outrageous, but this one indisputably takes the cake. The filmmaker admits the idea was spawned in a fog of marijuana and the genesis of the overall concept can be heard in the archives of his long-running podcast, The SModcast. The fact that he claims to have made the film because no one else would is likely accurate — because who else would produce Tusk, a movie in which a man is turned into a walrus à la The Human Centipede.
According to his girlfriend, Allison (Genesis Rodriguez), Wallace (Justin Long) used to be a nice guy before he became renowned as the co-host of an obnoxious podcast with his best friend, Teddy (Haley Joel Osment). They do a regular segment in which Wallace interviews an inadvertent Internet celebrity in-person and then describes the interview to Teddy on-air. When Wallace travels to Manitoba, Canada to speak to their latest subject and it falls through, he's determined not to let the trip go to waste. Therefore he's thrilled to find a handwritten ad posted by a worldly eccentric named Howard Howe (Michael Parks) who promises tall tales of his adventures at sea. But when Wallace stops answering his phone, Allison and Teddy follow his trail to the Great White North to investigate his mysterious disappearance.
In spite of Long's involvement in the script stage in an attempt to keep his character from being a total jerk, the first act serves to show how unlikeable success has made Wallace. He's rude and has little compassion for anyone that can serve as a prop in his show. Yet when he wakes up after being drugged by his psychotic host, the tables quickly turn and you are forced to empathize with the man the narrative has tried so hard to make you hate until that point.
There are a number of conversations in this movie that stand out as bizarre, entertaining and disturbing — sometimes all at once. After all, Smith makes money simply from talking and is famous for his wordy scripts. But the dialogue exchanged with Howard after a groggy Wallace wakes up in a solarium to discover the night's horrific consequences is possibly the best in a movie packed with similar amusements. Howard tries to attribute it to extreme treatment for a spider bite, which launches a ridiculous debate about the probability of the story.
As the tale takes a turn for the uncharacteristically macabre, the narrative flips over to the search for Wallace. The local police department shows little interest in the possible kidnapping of an American, but there is one detective who offers his assistance: Guy Lapointe. By now the cat is out of the bag and a simple search on IMDB reveals the eccentric Frenchman's identity, but that doesn’t make him any more recognizable behind the bad teeth, wig and Quebecois accent.
The third act is probably the weakest as it alternates between Howard's grotesque science experiment and the incompetent search for Wallace. But Lapointe is a never ending source of entertainment and Long's transformation into a walrus is akin to a car accident's bloody aftermath that people feel compelled to watch. This is by far the greatest example of Smith making a movie because he can and setting it in Canada simply because he adores the country. Far from his best in any category, the film delivers like a carnival sideshow's museum tour (which it also literally evokes in the final scene).
Director: Kevin Smith
Starring: Justin Long, Michael Parks and Haley Joel Osment
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