Review: Tusk (2014)

To a certain extent, podcasters are the new radio morning zoo crew, only with the license to be far more crass and vulgar. At least that’s what is theorized by Tusk (the first movie in the “True North” series), where Justin Long and Haley Joel Osment host a podcast where they plan on humiliating a kid in rural Canada who accidentally ripped his own limbs off while pretending to be a Star Wars kid. Long craves for listeners and their precious Patreon support, which strains his relationship with his girlfriend (Genesis Rodriguez).

His plans for internet glory by traveling to the Great White North go awry, though. His interviewee commits suicide before he can conduct his interview. He estranges all of the locals by being an Ugly American. And an elderly adventurer played by Michael Parks cuts off his limbs in an attempt to turn him into a walrus. If any of that comes across as a spoiler, look… this whole movie was made notorious as the one where some guy tries to turn Justin Long into a walrus. It’s the selling point.

Coupled with the usage of the titular Fleetwood Mac song, the movie tries to be a dark comedy. Oh Lord does it try. Why does Parks want to turn Justin Long into a walrus? Well, try to think of the dumbest motivation possible, and you’ll come close to replicating Kevin Smith’s thought process.

There is a celebrity cameo whose whole purpose seems to be a gag that we, the audience, will not recognize the actor under a ton of latex. (He’s not credited under his real name, either. To be fair, it’s one of the film’s most legitimately amusing jokes.) It all comes across as a shaggy dog movie pitch that you would come up with on a podcast… which it was. Kevin Smith plays the podcast episode over the end credits, and it very much sounds like the plot a couple of chuckleheads would come up with to try to make the story as silly as possible. It’s a feature-length meme.

Could it have worked? In different hands, perhaps. I love me some horror comedy, and if done right maybe this could have been another Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, with walrus tusks in the place of chainsaws. Once the main joke becomes apparent, I expected Smith to elevate it to new and unexpected heights.

Smith, though, doesn’t do much work beyond the few jokes he had to tell. They’re a little at odds, too. If podcasters are self-absorbed narcissists, then why should we care what happens to Justin Long. He’s shown with zero redeeming qualities. At the same time, he’s not so despicable that you want to see him go through non-consensual body mutilation. I find no joy in his comeuppance.

My emotion toward the end was pity… pity at Kevin Smith for trying so hard to tell the one joke we could all see coming from a mile away.

Rating: 2/5 stars.