Written by / 9/19/2014 / No comments / , ,

KEVIN SMITH DIRECTS MICHAEL PARKS & JUSTIN LONG IN 'TUSK'

year: 2014 rating: ***
“It’s such a fine line between stupid and, uh, clever,” said a member of the fictional heavy metal band Spinal Tap. And the same can be said of Kevin Smith’s TUSK, in which a snarky podcaster is trapped inside the rural manor of a crazy old man with an obsession for walruses!

The first half is pretty great, aiming headlong for horror film parody… The doomed claustrophobic setting of MISERY combined with the mad scientist agenda of SSSSSSS pits two polar opposites in the middle of nowhere, Canada…

Justin Long’s Wallace delivers the Kevin Smith dialogue with perfection. Spouting one-liners and poking fun at just about everything, and then some, he’s more a brash Jason Lee than, say, the Ben Affleck style nice guy protagonist.

Meanwhile his show partner, Teddy, played by a fully grown Haley Joel Osment, is the straight man of the group – and the least adventurous. With a cheating heart piercing his (way too) gorgeous girlfriend, the perpetually flawed Wallace makes for a victim who reaps what he sows: although no one deserves what's eventually coming to him...

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Enter veteran character-actor Michael Parks as the "wise" old fella with many tales to tell, and he tells them wonderfully, proving Kevin Smith can still write nicely. "Oh, it’s just an empty old bottle," Parks' Howard Howe says to the curious house guest. "But when combined with the story? Then it’s a powerful talisman — a doorway to another time and place. Perhaps a drawbridge to history." Or when Howe confirms a lie about how his captor became ill by a deadly spider bite. 'The arachnid assailant? Well... a typical spider. A legion of legs, et cetera et cetera." Meanwhile Long bends a sarcastic ear to every overly-pronounced syllable, often lifted from literary quotes. Their conversations could have gone on forever: If only we remained indoors...

Sadly, TUSK hits a massive wall with the introduction of Johnny Depp’s would-be rescuer, Guy Lapointe. A combination of Dr. Livingston, Inspector Clouseau and Columbo, Depp lets loose a 15-minute string that hardly progresses the story at hand, although he does let us in on the backstory on the lunatic we'd rather spend more time with. With phony makeup befitting an SNL skit.

But it isn't Johnny's fault, entirely. Any character intruding upon such offbeat potential would have done the same amount of damage. But one gets the feeling indie director Smith was getting his big name money’s worth with this prolonged “surprise” role – damn shame all that cotton candy had to ruin such a wonderfully devious Fun House/Freak Show ride, which is still an intriguing, crazy labor-of-love freak show nonetheless.
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