Friday, September 23, 2016

Review: Yoga Hosers

by Patrick Bromley
Sure, I'll be the one who the likes Yoga Hosers.

It's seems as though it's impossible nowadays to talk about a new Kevin Smith movie without also reviewing his entire career -- how he got his start, how so many of his movies are (by his own admission) artistically challenged, how he has built up his own cult of personality and, especially, the most recent incarnation of his career, which finds him making crazy, possibly self-indulgent movies inspired by podcasts and a newfound pot habit for an increasingly limited audience. The majority of reviews I've read for his last two movies, 2014's guy-is-turned-into-a-walrus comedy/horror hybrid Tusk and now Yoga Hosers, have spent more words attacking Smith for the direction of his career than actually discussing the movies he's making. The question many of these writers eventually land on is some version of "How dare he?" Should Smith be making these "glorified home movies," casting his kid and his friends, telling stories only he might be interested in seeing played out based on goofy conversations he has on his popular podcast?

My answer is yes.
Whether or not I like Yoga Hosers -- and, truth be told, I kind of do -- I'm glad that it exists. Sure, Smith wrote and directed a silly comedy as a vehicle for his daughter (Harley Quinn Smith) and her real-life friend (Lily-Rose Depp, whose father, Johnny, also stars) to goof around and sing Anthrax songs and smash sausage monsters with hockey sticks. I have a daughter. If I was a successful filmmaker with Smith's ability to get weird projects made, wouldn't I do the same? If there are audience members who resent what he's done, they do not need to see the movie. Critics may resent it (they do) because they actually do have to see it, but such is the profession they have chosen. And it's ok not to like it; it's less ok to argue that it shouldn't exist in the first place. The very thing for which Smith is most often being attacked when it comes to Yoga Hosers -- its self-indulgence -- is the very reason I enjoyed it. This is a love letter Smith made for his kid. That's sweet and that's beautiful, even when the movie is often a mess.

Harley Quinn and Lily-Rose play Colleen M. and Colleen C., respectively, reprising their roles as the bored teenage employees of the Canadian convenience store Eh-2-Zed first seen in Tusk (the movie represents the middle chapter of what Smith is calling his "True North Trilogy"). Here they spend there days hating work, checking their phones, Instagramming possible outfits and playing in a garage band called Glamthrax. A pair of seniors invite them to a party that isn't what they think it is at the same time that a group of Canadian Nazis (led by Smith's "Hollywood Babble-On" co-host Ralph Garman trotting out as many shitty impressions as he can in his limited screen time) has created a race of tiny, monstrous sausages called "Brazis." It's up to the Colleens -- with an assist by returning Inspector Guy LaPointe (Johnny Depp) -- to save the day and return Canada to its former glory.
First things first: Yoga Hosers is not particularly strong as a narrative. It's more a collection of ideas and scenes strung together in the shaggiest possibly way -- a stoner's stream-of-consciousness riff that throws in a crazy idea every time things threaten to become too ordinary ("Oh, shit, and there's, like, these killer bratwursts! *cough cough* And they look like Hitler and crawl up your ass!) There are scenes that feel like they've been left in the movie because Smith got an actor to come in and do a small role and couldn't bear to leave him or her on the cutting room floor, whether it's Justin Long's repeat appearances as Yogi Bayer, the girls' yoga instructor, or Saturday Night Live's Shasheer Zamata in a completely excisable role as a high school principal or Genesis Rodriguez as an angry gym teacher doing a Canadian accent that sounds nothing like a Canadian accent. This is an issue throughout the entirety of Yoga Hosers: Smith makes cheap, lazy jokes about Canada that mostly depend on characters saying "sorey" and "aboot" and all doing different bad versions of the same accent. He did it in a couple of scenes in Tusk, but here stretches the lame gag to feature length.

What else? Well, the CGI is among the worst I've seen in a finished movie that has actual movie stars in it. It ultimately doesn't matter, as one doesn't really walk away from Yoga Hosers thinking "I would have loved it but the quality of the CGI sauerkraut kept pulling me out of the movie." The exposition is handled clumsily, with two seemingly endless scenes in which characters just dump all the backstory over a series of flashbacks (including one with Haley Joel Osment doing a bad French accent, because this is a movie with no shortage of bad accents). And while some of the technical aspects of filmmaking have never been Smith's highest priority, Yoga Hosers finds the director re-teaming with James Laxton (his cinematographer for Tusk, Smith's best-looking movie) for a film that doesn't always move particularly well but which is bright and candy-colored in a really fun way.
The problems are the problems. I don't think there are many flaws in Yoga Hosers that Smith wouldn't willingly cop to or that he didn't intentionally include. I'm ultimately too won over by the infectious spirit of the movie to be too bothered by the weak spots. Harley Quinn Smith and Lily-Rose Depp are clearly having a blast in a movie that's engineered to let them have a blast and both are naturals on camera -- Smith with boundless energy and enthusiasm and Depp with terrific comic timing and deadpan delivery. Their characters are both a critique of their generation, their faces constantly buried in phones, and an atypically accepting look at youth culture; Smith, whose daughter is roughly the age she plays on screen, is more interested in accuracy than commentary a lot of the time. That's a big statement in a movie that features as many Nazi bratwursts as this one does, but I think the things Smith wants to get right, he gets right.

What he wants to get right more than anything is the friendship between the two Colleens, and that's my favorite thing about Yoga Hosers. Almost all of Smith's movies are, at the end of the day, love stories among friends -- Clerks, Mallrats, Jay and Silent Bob Strike BackZack and Miri Make a Porno, Clerks II -- and while I've no doubt there are critics who are accusing the director of covering well-worn territory (particularly because the main characters are employees of a convenience store, meaning Smith is back where he started), he's never told this kind of story about teenage girls. In fact, most filmmakers haven't. The majority of movies we get about teenage girls are comedies in which they are awful or coming of age stories in which they learn the world is a terrible place. Yoga Hosers is more interested in celebrating female friendship: the Colleens don't like the same boy, they don't have a falling out, they don't bicker or stab one another in the back. Instead we get montages of them having fun together, supporting one another and teaming up to defeat evil. It's what I believe the Spice Girls once referred to as "girl power."
Like with Tusk, Yoga Hosers represents Smith setting out to make a midnight movie; he has cited Strange Brew and Full Moon movies as being among his chief inspirations. And, like with Tusk, there are a number of elements of that approach that don't quite work, like a late-movie monster assembled out of what appears to be leftover pieces of Tusk's walrus suit. But the film's willingness to be completely silly helps smooth out the bumps -- it's hard to get worked up over some sub-par special effects or a narrative detour when the movie announces early on that it's going to do whatever the fuck it wants. Even Johnny Depp's Guy LaPointe works better here than in Tusk, if only because the goofiness of his performance matches the overall tone of Yoga Hosers instead of derailing it. When he jumps in to play guitar alongside his daughter and Harley Quinn singing "O Canada," it's hard not to smile as two fathers get to have a whole lot of fun working alongside their daughters.

So, yes, Kevin Smith is now in his DGAF period. And even though I'm mixed in my reactions to both of his last two efforts (I like Yoga Hosers overall and may never sort out my feelings about Tusk), I would so much rather he get to make the exact movies he wants to make instead of trying to fit into our ideas of what a "Kevin Smith movie" should be (Zack & Miri) or, even worse, taking generic for-hire gigs (Cop Out). I love movies because I love to see artists express themselves, and even if the movies end up not being for me I'd rather an artist get to express him or herself in as pure a form as possible. I find Yoga Hosers to be sweet, personal filmmaking disguised (and sometimes not) as something dumb. I like the movie. I may not like the next one, or the five movies Kevin Smith makes after that, but I hope he gets to keep making them just the way he wants. And I'm not sorey about that. Not sorey at all.


  1. i'm fench-canadian and we don't wear hat like johnny depp wear in this and tusk. it the french (from france) that do that.

    but i can't wait to see this, i loved Tusk (despite the bad canadian cliché jokes throughout) and i loved Smith entire movie career to various degree.

  2. and that's why you get the love and respect. Open-minded and actual critical faculties
    Nice work, yet again

    1. Hey Brad! Long time no see, mate!

    2. Hey bro. Yeah, it's all been hectic lately, lots of hobbies gone to the back burner. I'm about to join you in fatherhood, so I'm sure life will settle down soon ;-). You all good?

    3. Hey, congratulations! I've been great - hobbies still definitely on the back burner to some extent but fatherhood becomes less all-consuming as it goes. Definitely the best decision I ever made - hard sometimes but mostly amazing! Wishing you all the best man, be sure to keep us posted!

  3. Damn it Patrick, you might actually get me to watch this movie haha. Great review. I love that you seem to be seeing it from a completely different angle than most other critics.

  4. I'm glad you kinda liked it, Patrick, that's the only extra push I need to check this out - I've basically always liked Kevin Smith as a person and a filmmaker and I wish him the best, even if he is becoming more self-indulgent. I mean, really, what do we need more of - a movie like Yoga Hosers or, say, another f'ing Bourne movie?

    Did you see the video making the rounds on Youtube where Harley is interviewing him and he talks about how working with her made him want to be a better filmmaker? It's so sweet, hard not to love the big lug.

  5. I love Smith and respect Patrick's word...I'll give it a shot!

  6. I'm glad to hear you dug Yoga Hosers, Patrick. It's a fun movie. I saw it at the Fathom Events screening. I was with the movie from the get-go. Take John Hughes, Strange Brew, Clerks, Critters and Full Moon, put it in a blender and you have Yoga Hosers. For me, the movie got more hysterical and more outrageous the further it got, with the third act being a litmus test as to how "weird" a viewer can handle. Watching and listening to the crowd begin to turn in the film's final moments was just as much outrageous fun as the movie itself. During the screening, I kept thinking about that film showcase that I think used to follow Monstervision -- it was called 100% Weird and Yoga Hosers is just the kind of film to be on such a showcase. This is exactly the kind of movie to catch late at night on basic cable.

  7. I haven't seen this yet but I'm really on board with what you're getting at here Patrick. I think it is abundantly clear Kevin Smith is doing the work he wants to do with the people he wants to do it with. What could be cooler than that?

    Sol, I was going to post a link to that video you mentioned here. People can say what they like about Kevin Smith's many many many lengthy internet ramblings but he is also just a dad that totally loves his daughter. Incredibly sweet.