The thing about Kevin Smith’s first film since he “retired,” Tusk, is that it’s not a very good movie. There’s a less generous way to put that, but the last thing I’m inclined to do is invite a Kevin-Smith pile-on. Because if you put the actual substance of the movie aside, the project itself is remarkable: Kevin Smith hatched an idea on his podcast (while he was high, undoubtedly), he took that idea, turned it into a screenplay, managed to secure funding, grab Justin Long, Michael Parks, Haley Joel Osment and Johnny F**king Depp to star in his film, and he put it on 600 screens. That’s amazing. Snowpiercer — a great film with Captain fucking America in it — only managed 356 screens.
I don’t know if Tusk is ultimately going to be a success, but with very little marketing costs, and a lot of free promotion from Kevin Smith on his podcast network (and on podcasts outside of his network), there’s a very good chance that Tusk will recoup its $3 million investment this weekend before foreign distribution and other ancillary revenue streams are even factored in. Hell, the spin-off movie , Yoga Hosers — with Kevin Smith, his daughter, Johnny Depp’s daughter, and Depp himself — has already been financed and three-quarters shot.
Kevin Smith won before the movie even opened, and say what you want to say about the guy, but not a lot of people in Hollywood pull this off. Not a lot of people turn the seed of an idea from a podcast into a major motion picture starring Johnny Depp, even if Depp is completely unrecognizable and uses a pseudonym (if you didn’t already know Depp was in this film, you’d never know it was him).
It’s just too bad the movie itself could not live up to Kevin Smith’s ambition. Tusk is not a good movie. At best, it’s a decent Twilight Zone episode. Buried within the yammering mess, there’s an interesting 25-minute short film here about a serial killer who turns people into walruses . At an hour and forty minutes, though, Tusk is close to unbearable.
It’s not because of the performances, however. Much of Tusk is Justin Long and Michael Parks talking back and forth, and Smith coaxes good performances out of both of them (although Long’s mustache is hard to stomach). I would not say the same for the performances of Genesis Rodriguez and Haley Joel Osment, who turn in Redbox-level performances. As for Depp, I don’t know what the fuck he was doing with his performance or why he was even in this movie. Depp’s role was strange, unnecessary, and pointlessly odd, much like the last decade of his career.
The fundamental problem with Tusk, however, is that there’s nothing to it. You know everything there is to know about it from the premise: A creepy old man abducts a podcaster played by Justin Long and turns him into a walrus. That’s exactly what happens. The only thing that’s not in the trailer is what Justin Long looks like as a walrus, and that curiosity gap hardly feels worth the price of admission. There is no twist, and there is no grand finale. That would otherwise be OK if Tusk were a more interesting, entertaining, or even funny movie. But it’s not. Every line of dialogue in Tusk sounds like the faux-profound blatherings of a man impressed with the sound of his own voice because he’s so fucking high.
That, sadly, also describes Kevin Smith these last few years. I’ve given Smith some grief in the past, but my inner Kevin Smith fanboy always rears its head. The truth is, if Kevin Smith made a great movie, I’d go to the mat for that guy. I’m already three-quarters in the bag for him. I liked Red State. I liked Jersey Girl and loved Mallrats. Where it concerns Kevin Smith, it doesn’t take much to win me over because I am inclined to be won over, and if that makes me biased, then fuck you.
But that’s also why you can trust me when I say that Tusk is a shitty, aimless, boring, mess of a film impressed only with itself. It’s awesome that Kevin Smith turned a podcast idea into a feature film, and good for him, and I wish him all the success in the world. But it’s a damn shame that Tusk actually feels like a feature film hatched from a fucking podcast.