By James Hancock Sep 19th, 2014
I was 18 years old when Kevin Smith first burst onto the indie film scene with “Clerks” back in 1994. My friends and I all thought it was hysterical and at that time, it was a real eye-opening experience knowing that Kevin Smith had essentially maxed out a lot of credit cards to make his first feature film completely outside of the Hollywood machine. I was at the perfect age to fall in love with the Indie Film Revolution of the 1990s as filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez, Hal Hartley, Richard Linklater and so many more played a vital roll in reinventing American cinema. Throughout the decade Kevin Smith was always a part of the independent film conversation especially after the runaway success of “Chasing Amy” in 1997. I can only imagine how many sad cases there are of less talented individuals who tried the same path only to be saddled with debt and a lackluster movie that did not live up to their initial intentions but Kevin Smith evolved into a very crafty, charming survivor who is always ready to learn from his mistakes and try something new like “Red State” (2011). Kevin Smith has managed to sustain a 20 year career in a merciless cutthroat industry with a roller coaster of hits and flops, many of which would have destroyed less persistent filmmakers. No one is more self deprecating about their own films than Kevin Smith which is part of his charm but ever since the DVD “An Evening with Kevin Smith” hit the stands in 2002, I’ve noticed that Kevin Smith the personality is far more successful and interesting than his individual films. His story about working on the screenplay to “Superman Reborn” is already the stuff of legend.
Kevin Smith’s personal stories and perspective are what his fans want to hear and in recent years Kevin Smith has completely reinvented himself as an online and comic convention superstar through his multiple podcasts (“Fatman on Batman” is a personal fave), lectures, and public appearances. Other than Joss Whedon, Kevin Smith is one of the few public figures on the convention circuit who is treated like a complete messiah when he takes the stage and he could have very easily been tempted to continue down this path indefinitely.
And then came Smodcast Episode #259 “The Walrus and the Carpenter” (listen to it here). I won’t go into the details here, but by the end of the podcast, Kevin Smith was inspired to try his hand at a very different kind of movie, the over-the-top horror romp we now know as “Tusk”. The origins and promotion of this movie have completely eclipsed the movie itself but as a rabid fan of Kevin Smith (the man, not always the films), I had to go check it out. Is the movie good? I would say it is more of a curiosity than a movie. I feel like I just stumbled into the freak tent at a carnival run by outlaws and saw something I’m unlikely ever to forget. For those of you who don’t know the premise, the story is pretty simple. A podcaster played by Justin Long is imprisoned by a complete lunatic played by Michael Parks. Parks plays a man obsessed with walruses who seeks to use surgery to turn people into walruses in order to try and recapture the intimacy he felt years ago while stranded on an island with a walrus for his only companion. What follows is gross and insane with plenty of laughs along the way. The first impression I got from the movie is that Kevin Smith is clearly having fun again making movies. Justin Long and Michael Parks hurl themselves into their roles. Johnny Depp shows up halfway through the movie as a French Canadian homicide cop named Guy Lapointe and turns in one of his best performances in years. Kevin Smith has had so much fun making the movie that he decided to turn it into the first episode in a Canadian trilogy of movies that take place in a shared universe. He’s already at work on “Yoga Hosers” starring his daughter Harley Quinn Smith alongside Johnny Depp’s daughter Lily-Rose Melody Depp, both of whom are reprising their small roles in “Tusk”. The final film in the trilogy is tentatively titled “Moose Jaws”, which is basically a remake of “Jaws” but with a moose and the script is apparently halfway finished. For a man who has flirted with retiring from filmmaking on several occasions, Kevin Smith is now working like a man possessed.
But back to “Tusk” since this post is ostensibly supposed to be a review. I think that if you’re watching it with a crowd of friends that enjoys getting wasted and seeing outrageous movies like “Human Centipede” (the closest relative to “Tusk”), then “Tusk” will be right up your alley. I had fun watching it, but I’m not likely to watch it again except for perhaps a few scenes. On the other hand I couldn’t be more pleased to see a filmmaker in his Forties break new ground with new material. I don’t need to see any more of Kevin Smith’s New Jersey-based relationship movies with their usual barrage of jokes about butt sex, cock size, fucking animals, chicks with dicks, etc. “Yoga Hosers”, however, is definitely on my radar. Harley and Rose steal the movie in their two scenes and Kevin Smith clearly feels like he has something to say with his new trilogy. The only downside is that Kevin Smith will be recording fewer podcasts. On the other hand, making movies has always given Kevin Smith his best stories to share both on his podcasts and his public appearances so I’m officially in Kevin Smith’s corner and I hope that this new trilogy will keep him inspired and energized for many years to come.
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