This is a reprint of our review from the 2016 Sundance Film Festival.
Kevin Smith‘s “Yoga Hosers” is a flabby, goofy, comically inert cartoon that pits two teen clerks against Canadian Nazis and little creatures made of sausage.
Much like his prior film “Tusk,” which was born from a podcast, this movie has the vibe of a stoned conversation splashed up on screen. Smith is making movies for himself (which can be admirable) and seemingly for extended and in-joke-aware fans. This is a very personal movie with little to say; even the film’s many jabs at critics feel like pulled punches.
“Yoga Hosers” is Smith doing an ’80s teen comedy, but its primary comic voice is the Dad Joke. With the exception of young stars Lily-Rose Depp and the director’s daughter Harley Quinn Smith (both introduced in these roles in “Tusk”) this movie is as fresh as a wrinkled convenience-store hot dog. The two leads have an easy chemistry, and at times even seem to be breaking in scenes, but in a film like this, breaking in a scene is preferable to stagnant two-shots with no comic zing.
Depp and the younger Smith are Colleen C and Colleen M, BFFs who work at the Eh to Zed convenience store owned by Colleen C’s dad. Posted up behind the counter, they dispense shade along with change, whenever they’re not nose-deep in their phones or taking extended breaks for band practice in the back room. (During breaks, customers are warned off by signs like “Urinary Tract Infection – Back in 10 minutes.”)
“Yoga Hosers” begins with popping colors, relatively brisk editing, and an appearance from Tony Hale as Colleen C’s dad. He plays the role like a live-action Muppet, with wide eyes and big, flapping physicality. Hale seems to be making a different movie, but maybe a better one, a camp-cranked-to-11 parody of teen movies. He shares scenes with Natasha Lyonne, and their scenes are among the film’s few highlights.
Kevin Smith adopts stylistic tactics from Edgar Wright‘s “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World” and introduces characters via Instagram-like info cards that will probably play better with the pause function of home media than they do on the big screen. He lampoons yoga through an instructor played by Justin Long, who teaches poses with names like “Dissatisfied Customer,” and earns a few laughs in doing so.
The Colleens just want to attend a party thrown by a cute senior boy, but end up running afoul of strong tiny creatures causing mayhem around town. “Yoga Hosers” makes the “Daniel Radcliffe farting corpse” movie “Swiss Army Man” look restrained, as the convenience store is soon overrun by tiny Nazi sausage-men. These silly minions, awkwardly composited into the film, have little sausage-casing knots atop their heads, spout nonsense German like “Das Boot!” and “Wunderbar!” and explode into sauerkraut when stomped.
No, wait, don’t stop reading, I haven’t even got to the Golem Goalie yet. That’s a big sculpture made by a Canadian Nazi played by Ralph Garman who mostly speaks through impersonations of Al Pacino and Charles Nelson Reilly.
Garman’s character was once an artist until mean critics drove him towards villainy — the Golem Goalie’s express purpose is to destroy critics and haters. Smith seems to be lampooning that motivation more than endorsing it, but as with so much of the rest of the film, the jokes just aren’t funny.
As he has for most of his career, Smith edited the film himself, and the returns on his editing skills are steadily diminishing. Jokes consistently play far too long, or are wildly over-explained, or both. Johnny Depp‘s mumbling, halting Guy Lapointe gag, reprised from “Tusk,” might be funny used very judiciously. Depp, however, has free rein to mug through scene after scene. The Lapointe character stops the movie dead, just as he did in “Tusk.”
“Yoga Hosers” might be marginally more tolerable if Smith were able to get over his fascination with goofy but inconsistent Canadian accents. Excessive use of “aboot” is probably funny with friends. When stoned? Hilarious. But on screen, it’s awful. Smith has referenced “Strange Brew” in conversations about this movie, but that film was made by Canadians, who have a more genuine point of reference. Smith merely seems to be goofing on an accent, and it never works.
Avid consumers of nerd culture — that is, people like Kevin Smith — may get a bit more out of “Yoga Hosers” than everyone else. Most audiences will recognize the score’s riffs on popular horror themes and the ’60s Batman graphic overlays. Perhaps fewer will recognize Batman animated voice actor Kevin Conroy in a cameo, or have any knowledge of Anthrax‘s song “I’m the Man,” a cover of which opens the film. The influence of cheap ’80s and ’90s genre cheapies like “Dollman vs. Demonic Toys” from Full Moon Features is baked into the film, not that it will enhance the experience.
Could the accents, the Guy Lapointe character, and the very dodgy visual effects all be part of some attempt to push the film so deep into the realm of the ridiculous that it acquires a level of meta-humor? Perhaps, just as it is possible that this movie reflects Smith looking at his age and the potential irrelevance of things he holds dear. Is “Yoga Hosers” the product of Smith coming to terms with his daughter’s interests even as the camera ogles her? Anything is possible, but it would take even more weed than Smith smokes in a month to make me believe it. [D+]