Thanks to my surprisingly contrarian adoration of Kevin Smith (amongst critics, at least), I sat down for Yoga Hosers filled with curious excitement. One Kevin Smith movie packs more personality than some filmmakers produce over an entire career, and his daddy-daughter feature teased bizarre delicacies beyond Earthly words.
Alas, my take on Smith’s Canadian zero-to-hero nightmare aligns with most other negative views, but it’s still an admirably passionate project that I salute the renegade director for tackling. Smith takes tremendous creative risks every time he pens a script, and sometimes they become Clerks, or Tusk, or Zack And Miri Make A Porno, while other times they’re Yoga Hosers. It’s a numbers game, really.
So – regrettably – let’s get to the not fun part.
Yoga Hosers is a hollow genre mashup that can be best described as Buzzfeed meets Jem And The Holograms meets a neat-enough podcast discussion. It’s silly with a capital “Seriously, Kevin Smith Plays An Army Of Bratwurst Nazis,” but fails to excite despite Smith’s dream of creating something empowering for young girls who are being force-fed mainstream masculinity from all angles.
At its best, its Mean Girls Lite with a sweet message about friendship, but at its worst, jokes whiff while lacklustre special effects distract from girl-power sentiments. All of Smith’s staples return – punny store products (Pucky Charms), celebrity cameos, super-dope-killer dialogue – but there’s an unfamiliar weightlessness about it all. This is the first time Smith hasn’t sucked me into whatever world he’s creating – whether I’m the “target demographic” or not – and hopefully, it’ll be the last.
Lily-Rose Depp and Harley Quinn Smith star as the Colleens, two phone-obsessed Canadian teenagers who spend most of their time working shifts at local convenience store EH-2-ZED. When they’re not Gramming on the Insta or building their social media empires, they’re playing music or having pillow fights like normal girls do. You know, cliched stuff like getting excited when Senior Hunter Calloway (Austin Butler) invites the two lowly Sophomores to a party, only to find that they have work that night. Stricken with societal depression, the Colleens decide to throw their own party at EH-2-ZED, but before the festivities can even start, evil Bratzis (Nazi Bratwursts) ruin their hopes of getting to second base. Well, I guess it’s time for the Colleens to save the world…or…like…whatever.
As part of Smith’s “True North” trilogy, Yoga Hosers is the more light-hearted, family-friendly (yes) entry. Every single Tusk player sans Michael Parks is back in a different role (even though the Colleens saved Long’s walrus apparently?), from Justin Long’s strip-mall Yoga guru (Yogi Bayer – HA) to Genesis Rodriguez as P.E. teacher Ms. Wicklund (who I adore). Ralph Garman cycles through impressions, Haley Joel Osment starts the Canadian Nazi movement, and have no fear – Johnny Depp returns as slider-munching Guy Lapointe, prosthetic nose and all.
Smith assembles his goofy cast of predictable characters with simplicity in mind, as Yoga Hosers plays for easy chuckles versus the filmmaker’s typically stoner-intellect vibe. If you couldn’t stand Depp’s bumbling Canadian investigator in Tusk, you’ll be doubly off-put this time around as Lapoite’s jokes all revolve around his thick, French Canadian accent. Long dishes out some pretty hilarious Yoga poses (The Dissatisfied Customer/Laser Wrists/All The Dog Poses), and Adam Brody smolders as a tatted-up drummer, but most other inclusions feel like they’re there for name recognition only, not exploited talent. One of Smith’s greatest talents is generating characters who aren’t easily forgotten, yet most supporting players feel like they’re given one chance to shine – and few do.
Smith wrote Yoga Hosers to be a starring vessel for his and Depp’s BFF daughters, and there are glimpses that show why. Both mini Depp and lil’ Smith are likable in their so-not-basic Colleen roles, playing off obvious friendship chemistry rooted in reality. Snarky teens playing snarky teens – seems like a no-brainier. Without so much scripted cheesiness (pop-song montage/InstaCan/how many times can we get away with the funny Canadian accent), it’s easy to see that Smith wasn’t exploiting his profession for Harley-Quinn’s gain. There’s such a genuine innocence and uninterested ambivalence to the Colleens’ actions, and it’s HQ Smith who stands tallest. When she faints after Ms. Wicklund confiscates her phone, it’s an exercise in comedic timing and physical humor without the stench of inexperience. This isn’t a handout piece – the Colleen roles are earned.
That said, the tone of Yoga Hosers is desperately confusing. Where Tusk pulled off the unimaginable by transforming Justin Long into a Frankensteined walrus through visual effects, Yoga Hosers displays discouragingly weak visuals where the Bratzis are confirmed.
Smith looks deliciously audacious in-character when squeakily screaming “Wunderbar!” (my one true belly laugh), but their sauerkraut blood-splatter looks like something out of an original PlayStation game. Then the meaty little bastards start running and jumping, clunkily maneuvering around while the Colleens squish every last one to even lesser fluidity. Smith’s better work comes by way of his “Goalie Gollum” reveal during the finale, yet it’s nothing monumental enough to distract from previous technical unpleasantness that sucks the life out of an otherwise up-beat-tempo food fight.
Even worse, so much of Yoga Hosers passes without any changing momentum. It’s this pop-culture glitterbomb bursting with “Eh’s” and “Aboots” that never finds a true spirit, despite Smith’s pure and good-natured intentions. Harmless, but with an underwhelming, forgettable German taste. You’d think an army of talking Nazi food monsters would be prime Kevin Smith material, but there’s never an organic growth of empowerment to support too many scenes of high-school-brand generics (if I heard the term “basic” one more time, I was going to explode like a pumpkin spice late being dropped on a brand new pair of Ugg boots). Smith has such a knack for genuine, seamless scripting (even with something as wild as Tusk), but almost every scene in Yoga Hosers seems forced. You can’t make genre empowerment happen, it has to grow scene by scene – something I never thought Smith would struggle with.
Simply put, Yoga Hosers doesn’t feel like a Kevin Smith movie. Lily-Rose Depp and Harley Quinn Smith play a cutesy, fast-talking duo of bratwurst-slapping young ladies exploring maturation, but Smith fails to reach an all-empowering epiphany. The girls’ final boss fight plays a something out of a PG version of Canadian Mortal Combat, and there are a few little asides that warrant some smirking, but everything appears far-too mechanical to be a Kevin Smith production. Trust me, these aren’t the words I wanted to write, but c’est la vie. All we can do is start counting down the days until Moose Jaws, and brush all those sauerkraut guts under the proverbial rug.
Yoga Hosers is the least "Kevin Smith" of any Kevin Smith movie, as it lacks his genuine directorial charisma and typically fluid workings.