Too Poor for Popcorn
Directed by Kevin Smith; In Theaters now.
editors note: Once again, Too Poor for Popcorn is positively promiscuous with SPOILERS. But, much as Milo said "Marley and Me is the book about the dog that dies", Tusk is the movie about a guy who gets turned into a walrus.
TUSK slammed into Social Media months ago, claiming it’s spot and holding to it tight with its eccentric premise and promises of “holy shit!” moments and “what the fuck!” feelings. Most of us were eagerly awaiting its arrival while the rest were at the very least completely aware that it was coming. And it did. Aaaand it did.
The premise is simple: Wallace, a podcaster, takes a trip to Canada to interview a minor Internet celebrity. Once there, he gets lured by an improbable note left in a bathroom stall 2 hours out of Manitoba to meet Howard, an old man with tales of adventure. Soon after their initial meeting Howard embarks on his plan of turning Wallace into a walrus. And we all cringe in our seats and feel like we need to pee for about 1/3 of the movie.
With a terminology already afforded by social media, allow me to break down TUSK:
Howard Howe is one of one of the greatest psychopaths on film in recent years. A good cinematic psychopath lingers in our memories with respect and delight long after viewing him on screen, and our lunatic Walrus lover does not disappoint. Throughout the film Howard gets lost in monologues on his life that are too long to focus on entirely, but provide an eerie, poetic shiver that wakes us at just at the right moments to process violence, rape and abandonment. From the tone and volume of his stories to his amused and piercing gaze, Michael Parks gives an exquisite performance that has us smiling with fear.
Justin Long plays a great asshole/victim. The kind of guy that you’d meet in real life and think “I hope someone turns that dickhead into a walrus.” This works to the viewer’s advantage as he is tortured because we can feel good about wishing someone gave that asshole mercy.
The soundtrack. A nostalgic mesh of different genres that helps edge it to the “Cult Cinema” section it is aiming for and sharpens the comedy of the moments it underscores. As our visual senses take in gore and our auditory ones hear a combo of deep soulful music we are reminded that we are watching something fucking ridiculous and that it’s okay to like it for what it is.
Half way into the movie we are all vibrating with excitement, nerves on edge, thinking “OH MY GOD HE’S GONNA TURN JUSTIN LONG INTO A WALRUS!” And then he does. And there it is. And we have a whole third act left in which our main character is already a walrus and we already know what he looks like, and all though we want to see it through we frankly don’t really give a shit what happens to a walrus, and our hearts return to beating at their regular rates and we are laying in a giant wet spot of premature walrus. Pity, really.
Then, there is the unfortunate disappointment of the supporting characters. Ally (the gf) and Teddy (the best friend) have an affair in which they both acknowledge that she still loves Wallace, and he is still Wallace’s buddy (but wishes he treated the girl better) and a lot of other cliché’s as a secondary story that is underdeveloped and we don’t care about at all, at all, because the characters are also so underdeveloped. Genesis Rodriguez plays the latin girlfriend, though her ethnicity is completely irrelevant because her appearance, character and behavior are not at all influenced by her being latin and only serves as a brief tool for interaction with Wallace when she is being mocked for her nonexistent accent, and during a story in which she quotes her “abuelo” in Spanish. Dude- your boyfriend doesn’t speak spanish, just translate it for him and your story is boring and irrelevant.
Lastly, the overly extended appearance by a famous actor in a character role, whom we might have had more tolerance for had we met him before the walrus was revealed. But that wasn’t the case. Building this character into the storyline seemed a forced stretch, more so when he was given the spotlight, taking even more away from our already flat secondary characters. His initial appearance is well received, but then quickly disappoints.
All in all, this is not a movie that you leave exhilarated over, nor is it a movie that will make you leave grunting and disappointed. It was an entertaining experience, but we probably won’t watch it again, unless the remote is too far and we are already under the influence.
Here at Check This Out Babe we give Tusk a solid W, for “What the fuck, Wallace the Walrus?”