A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Tusk is a horror comedy written and directed by Kevin Smith, based on one of his own podcasts. The horror part is very gruesome and dark, not unlike The Human Centipede, but with some (supposed) comic relief from time to time. There's lots of blood, some horrific operations, and both physical and emotional torture. Language is very strong, with many uses of "f--k," "s--t," and all kinds of other words. Sexual innuendo and sex talk are also extremely strong, with crude references, sexual situations (including implied oral sex), and a girlfriend in sexy outfits. A main character also smokes a cigarette. This movie has tons of Internet buzz, as Smith asked fans whether they wanted to see it before he made it, and teens may take sitting through it as a kind of dare.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Popular podcaster Wallace Bryton (Justin Long) makes a living making fun of people, including a poor kid who accidentally sliced off his leg while performing lightsaber moves. He travels to Canada to interview the kid but meets with some bad luck. On the hunt for a new story, Wallace finds a handbill written by an old sailor, Howard (Michael Parks), who wants to tell his incredible true sea stories -- including his rescue by a walrus. Unfortunately, it turns out that Howard's real plan is to turn Wallace into a walrus (yes, you read that right) to recreate his experience. Meanwhile, Wallace's sidekick (Haley Joel Osment), his girlfriend (Genesis Rodriguez), and an ex-cop (a heavily disguised Johnny Depp, credited as "Guy Lapointe") must find him before it's too late.
Is it any good?
The idea for Kevin Smith's latest film came from his own podcast, and it smacks of a dare, rather than any real desire to tell a story. It seems as if the idea for TUSK must have been a good deal funnier to the folks behind the scenes than it is to the audience; in fact, it's not even clear which parts are meant to be funny. The movie shifts uneasily between horror and comedy. And the horror isn't scary or moody; it's just highly unpleasant, like a dumbed-down version of The Human Centipede.
While the comedy, such that it is, comes as a welcome relief from the gruesome parts, it's a far cry from Smith at his funniest or warmest. It's amusing for a little while to watch Guy Lapointe and try to figure out why he looks so familiar, although his shtick gets a little tiresome. The only other pleasure in the movie is watching Parks in a flashback scene, playing with a totally different personality. He's a terrific actor, truly edgy and sometimes scary. He deserves better films.
Talk to your kids about ...
How do comedy and horror mix together in this movie? How do they help or hinder each other? What other comedy-horror movies have you seen, and how did they compare?
How does Wallace behave toward others? Why would a podcast dedicated to making fun of people become so popular? What's appealing about it?
Does Wallace deserve his fate? How do you think the movie would have played out if he had been nicer?
Why is sex such a big topic in this story? Why does Wallace talk about it so much? What's his attitude toward his girlfriend?
- In theaters: September 19, 2014
- On DVD or streaming: December 30, 2014
- Cast: Justin Long, Michael Parks, Genesis Rodriguez
- Director: Kevin Smith
- Studio: A24
- Genre: Horror
- Run time: 102 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: some disturbing violence/gore, language and sexual content
- Last updated: March 13, 2020
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