Writer/director Kevin Smith still has an independent spirit about him. The man who helped usher in the 90s independent film movement with Clerks and Chasing Amy has evolved over the course of his career. He’s a man who created a relatable universe for a specific type of Gen Xer geek hoping to find their voice in an era where blockbusters were losing track of reality. Smith built this into a massive fandom and digital age empire that expanded beyond his film work. He helped develop podcasting during its early burgeoning years through SModcast. He reinvented the directorial Q&A with his lecture tours. He showed just how far a fat geek from New Jersey could come, blossoming from a convenience store clerk into a Sundance success over night. However, in the last ten years or so, he’s grown to be something else. Something different. A director willing to put out something that doesn’t really speak to his established fanbase, any newbies tempted by the promise of a PG-13 comedy-fantasy-horror film or… really anyone. That something is his 12th film Yoga Hosers.
Yoga Hosers follows Colleen McKenzie (Harley-Quinn Smith, Kevin’s real life daughter) and Colleen Collette (Lily-Rose Depp), two Canadian teenage girls who share both a first name and a love for performing yoga with their instructor Yogi Bayer (Justin Long). While obsessing as teens do, they ignore their work at the Eh-2-Zed convenience store that Collette’s father (Tony Hale) and stepmother (Natasha Lyonne) run. They consider the store their own personal hell and even try to impress a few cute boys by having them over for a party. Unfortunately, they didn’t count on something rising from the depths of their store: sentient Nazi braadworsts (all played by Kevin Smith). After these tiny braadworsts kill their would-be suitors, the Colleens squash them into pieces as the police come arrest them. Now facing murder charges, our young heroes must rely on their wits and the help of a bumbling French Canadian detective Guy LaPointe (Johnny Depp, Lily-Rose’s real life father) to uncover the mystery of what lies under their store.
Yoga Hosers is a spin off of Kevin Smith’s previous film Tusk. Both (along with the forth coming Moose Jaws) are part of what Smith calls “The True North Trilogy”, a series of films set in Canada with outlandish fantasy horror plots. Lily-Rose, Harley and Johnny Depp reprise their earlier roles from Tusk, going so far as to reference those events in such a fashion that paints our titular Hosers as local heroes. Yet, with the previous synopsis and the implications of a slightly bigger universe, one would think there’s more to Yoga Hosers that shouldn’t be spoiled here. Unfortunately, there really isn’t. That shoe string plot synopsis pretty much covers that through line of our tale, only leaving out a bizarrely terrible reveal of a climax that would result in audiences being underwhelmed and perplexed.
Unluckily, Smith decides to fill up the run time of Yoga Hosers with as many unrelentingly groan worthy jokes as possible. Mainly, jokes about Canada that your Dad would make on the way to a family vacation. There’s an Instagram parody called “Insta Can.” Egregious use of “aboot.” Every person seems to have hockey equipment near and at the ready. There’s also a recurring joke about Justin Long naming his yoga studio “Yogi Bear,” some grating musical numbers and an entire Nazi subplot that devolves into Nazi wieners – or “Bratzis” – saying random German phrases in baby voices. That’s the type of “fun” you’re in for with Yoga Hosers. The “fun” that is an endless loop of jokes that feel like first draft material mainly meant to appease Smith’s fanboys.
There’s not much that’s really accessible or relatable to the hopeful gateway audience of teens in Yoga Hosers. Honestly, it’s kind of a shame given that our leads have potential. Harley Quinn Smith and Lily-Rose Depp are clearly inexperienced, but have a believable chemistry that could work if molded by someone with some sense of craft. Someone who knew how to properly light his creatures so they don’t look as rubbery as they are. Or properly matte tiny sausage creatures so that there’s any tangible sense of destruction when they’re smashed. Or even frame a shot so that we can’t see that a character talking on a phone is clearly on his main app page.
Stuff like that implies a lack of interest in making the world or any of the supposed stakes feel real, which is important even for Smith’s small goals of being a light romp with otherworldly creatures. The third act of Yoga Hosers shows Smith trying to vilify artists who hate criticism as a way of apologizing for his hateful comments towards critics since they went nuclear against Cop Out. While I can give him a pat on the back for trying, the entire point feels so shoehorned in that even those not in the know about Smith’s past will be distracted by the sudden outbursts about critics. Plus, when the stakes just involve a small minority of the population, how much am I supposed to be invested in what’s going on?
Then again, Smith has always admitted that he isn’t a very skilled visual director. His biggest strength was always in the writing. In his earlier films, there was always a real heart to whatever story he would do. Even in something as high concept as Dogma, there’s an emotional grounding for an audience to engage in. Yet, Yoga Hosers forgoes developing that central connection between its leads beyond their titular love of yoga that’s more a flavorless way of setting up our heroes saving the day. Yoga Hosers just awkwardly stumbles from set piece to set piece. It’s more concerned with propping up a terrible joke and dragging it out through a completely unnecessary explanation. For a man who used to be so skilled at a comedic monologue, it’s a shame to see Smith struggle with a basic idea of set up and pay off for anything the two Colleens have to face off against.
It doesn’t help that every character around these two feels like something out of a different film. Johnny Depp’s Guy LaPointe is the same horrendous mash up of Inspector Clouseau, Columbo and Christoph Waltz he played previously, now with more random face warts that change positions between shots. Jennifer Schwalbach Smith (wife of Kevin, mother of Harley) has a menstruation diatribe that seems rejected from Smith’s earlier work. Tony Hale and Natasha Lyonne seem like parents ripped out of a lesser John Hughes teen comedy clone. Haley Joel Osment shows up as a Canadian Nazi character in poorly put together flashback footage straight out of practice takes for an unmade Mel Brooks parody of Schindler’s List. Ralph Garman plays a mad villain character with shades of a 50s Roger Corman production and a Carnival Cruise impressionist comedian. Smith himself plays these sausages that seem like the type of small creatures that the Gremlins, Critters and even Ghoulies would tell to leave the lunch table.
The supporting cast of Yoga Hosers just pops in and out willy nilly without any sort of care for consistency or proper escalation in the comedy like a bad sketch show. This also spreads to the tone, throwing in random plot turns for the sake of a poor comedic shock. Instead, it comes off as gratingly unbalanced. Throwing jokes and seeing what sticks is fine, but a little consistent structure or tone goes a long way to set up foundation. Then again, can’t expect to much of this from a confirmed constant stoner like Kevin Smith.
By the time Yoga Hosers reached its end, the element of it being a family affair really managed to sink it. Given the small scope of the entire project and the collaboration between Lily-Rose, Harley and their respective fathers, this smaller indie production had the feel of a rather expensive home movie between two families. All those who are related to each other seem to be having fun. And that’s all well and good for them. I hope they enjoyed themselves endlessly… but that joy didn’t translate in terms of the story onscreen. This surreal yet extremely unimpressive stab truly is a new low for Kevin Smith’s directorial career, surpassing the uninspired “heights” of the bumbling studio comedy Cop Out by a decent enough margin.
Keep in mind that I’m not simply bagging on this just because I’ve grown out of love with Kevin Smith’s material. I’d love nothing more than to eat crow and find Smith turning a corner that would make his work interesting to me again. But when I couldn’t even get a single chuckle during those grueling 88 minutes, there’s no letting things slide in the slightest for Yoga Hosers. While searching for a sort of goofy consistency with its cartoonish spirit that melds Scott Pilgrim vs The World with Gremlins, Yoga Hosers instead feels like a really low rent Hanna Barbara production from the 70s. The jokes are stale, the concepts make no real sense and everything kept repeating itself like the endless background cells for The Flintstones. Unfortunately, there was no remote in sight for me to change the channel with.
Rating: (0 / 5) (This Ain’t a Typo)