What kind of smith is Kevin Smith you ask? That’s easy, a wordsmith.
“Tusk” is the story of a podcaster whose attempt to land an interesting interview instead lands him in one of the creepiest and twisted stories of all time with himself playing a role he never intended. Justin Long stars as the podcaster with Michael Parks stepping in as the creepy old man. And when I say creepy, I mean next level creepy. It’s a sick and twisted tale that was actually birthed live on an episode of director Kevin Smith’s podcast a while back and apparently he’s just crazy enough to turn it into an actual movie. It’s his brainchild through and through and you can tell he feels no restrictions here in making exactly the movie he wanted.
If you love Kevin Smith, you will love this movie. If not, well, that’s a different story. But from the sick sense of humor to the delicately crafted dialogue Smith drips off page in this one. It’s hard not to at least respect the amount of artistic freedom it takes to start with a story you told while joking around with a friend on a show and then bring it to the big screen exactly as you imagined it, with every strange, sick, and disgusting detail. But here’s the thing about Smith, he gets his audience and he knows they love this stuff. Oh and he’s a genius writer as well, which always helps. In fact, for me, the best thing about the movie is the way Smith allows his characters to turn phrases and use almost poetic language. It really is captivating and one of the reasons the humor of it all lands so well. Another reason? These performances are actually really good. Even as silly as the concept is, these actors are putting in some real work here. Long and Parks especially shine, offering a strange gravitas to this bizarre tale.
But it’s not enough. See the truth is, horror-comedy is a tough hybrid to stitch together, and to make it work I think you have to decide if you are playing it serious or farcical, and Tusk can’t decide which it wants to be. Some of the acting falls on the serious side, but then the visual jokes are played so over the top that it must be a farce. Just as the freedom gave Smith the ability to go full Smith, it also may have stolen the focus that restrictions can sometimes offer to the artistic process, making the movie feel a bit too long and lost in its own energy, and probably leaving behind any reach to a broader demographic. And you know what, I’m guessing that’s just fine with Smith and his core audience.
At the end of the day, Tusk, is a bizarre, funny, and grotesque creation straight from the brilliant mind of Kevin Smith. The acting is great and the writing is clever, but the movie can’t escape wallowing in it’s own weirdness to swim to shore with anything higher than a C+.