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Friday, September 19, 2014

Tusk: An Open Letter to Kevin Smith

We deliver a message to Director Kevin Smith, and it isn't a hearty pat on the back. Dear Kevin Smith,

As a fan of your films - including Dogma, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, and Clerks I/II - it's clear that the appreciation for your past work is certainly appropriate. And yet, you've endured a bit of a struggle lately, with many moviegoers unwilling to give you the same credit. I would not be saying anything new by reminding you that Jersey Girl is generally agreed as being one of the worst films ever made. Well sir, after seeing your latest submission Tusk, it's clear that my list needs to be updated: Tusk is not only the worst film of the year, but it could be the worst film of all time.

The premise - concocted during one of your Smodcast podcast episodes - of a loudmouth online personality (Justin Long) who is kidnapped and turned into a walrus by psychopath Howard Howe (Michael Parks) is unbelievable to everyone who hears it. And yet this comedy/horror/drama was somehow greenlit, cast with stars like Haley Joel Osment as Wallace's podcast partner, and directed by you.

There are so many questions I have about Tusk, none of which make me feel good to ask. I'll start with the obvious: why make a film like this, when plenty of other projects await your care? Isn't there a superhero or Star Wars movie you could somehow muscle your way into? It's said that not all ideas are worthy until someone important says them - I might also ask if that's the only way a film like this could have been conceived, with you triggering off the plot to the laughter of colleague Scott Mosier as the credits roll. In no way does its inclusion make or make me feel better for seeing it. Nor do its moments of levity ever make me laugh, even when a famous actor arrives to help Wallace's rescue team.

Watching Tusk made me feel like I needed a shower afterwards, not because it forged bold new paths in independent cinema, but for its dizzying tonal turns, ludicrous story, and the performances of Long and others, who seem mired behind a deluge of bad writing. The revulsion I felt during my cinematic incarceration was palpable - had my writer-in-crime not also been present, I might have done the unthinkable and left the theater before seeing an ending that no one could have predicted. That's not a statement of your mastery as a filmmaker Mr. Smith, but a painful commentary about your effectiveness and value to current American cinema.

And yet, it's likely that Hollywood will continue to grant you chances to make your particular brand of humor, most of which I have enjoyed throughout the years. Whether that is a result of Hollywood's shortsightedness or the smoke and mirrors you created to get this funded is beyond me to answer. But, I can say this with total faith: Tusk is one of the worst films ever made, boggling the viewer with an ineptitude rarely seen. I suspect those few who dare to see it will share in my opinions, marching out of the theaters halfway through to demand their money back, and swearing off your films for good.

You were once a great filmmaker, but it seems your time has passed, and that's a painful reality to face.

Tusk is rated R for some disturbing violence/gore, language and sexual content and has a runtime of 102 minutes.

Discuss this review with fellow SJF fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @SandwichJohnFilms, and follow author Matt Cummings at @mfc90125.

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