Yoga Hosers (2016)
Directed By Kevin Smith
Starring Johnny Depp, Lily-Rose Depp, Harley Quinn Smith, Adam Brody, Justin Long, Natasha Lyonne, Haley Joel Osment, Genesis Rodriguez, Kevin Smith, Tony Hale, Ralph Garman, Tony Hale, Harley Morenstein, Tyler Posey, Austin Butler, Jason Mewes and Vanessa Paradis.
Two teenage yoga enthusiasts team up with a legendary man-hunter to battle with an ancient evil presence that is threatening their major party plans.
As a director, Kevin Smith has taken a rather divisive career turn in recent years. Gone are the days when the Fatman on Batman was an indie darling churning out critically acclaimed hits like Clerks, Chasing Amy and Dogma, and in his place is a podcaster who no longer cares about film conventions with outings like Red State and Tusk. This is a director who said he was retiring from the game to focus on podcasts, and now finds himself prepping another sequel to Clerks, a Canadian-themed horror movie titled Moose Jaws, working on more episodes of The Flash and going out to networks to push TV shows based on his own movie Mallrats and one his favourite films The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. Diehard fans have rallied behind him, but there were those who rejected the core concept of his intentions behind Tusk (a movie born out of a podcast) and pushed that same trepidation on his latest film, Yoga Hosers, which acts as the second part of his True North Trilogy. The trailer didn’t get much of a positive reaction and the movie was roundly trashed when it debuted at Sundance earlier this year. It fared better at Edinburgh, but how will it play to his fanbase and its target audience of tween girls?
Yoga Hosers sees the two Canuck Clerks from Tusk Colleen M (Smith’s daughter Harley Quinn Smith) and Colleen C (Lily-Rose ‘daughter of Johnny’ Depp) have a pretty crazy night when they are forced to work in convenience store, Eh-2-Zed, as tiny Nazis made of bratwurst begin to attack them. With the help of French-Canadian monster hunter Guy Lapointe (a heavily made-up Johnny Depp, also reprising his role from Tusk), The Colleens will have to fight back against a secret underground Nazi group led by Arcane (Smith’s Hollywood Babble On co-host Ralph Garman).
Smith cites Yoga Hosers as the film he wanted to see when he was a 12-year old girl and makes no bones that this movie’s target audience is not his usual one. The Colleens are heroes for a gender that are sorely under-represented on screen, and Harley Quinn Smith has been very vocal about how great it is that her father is writing these characters to appeal to her and young women like her rather than just seeing female characters being Iron Man’s girlfriend or Captain America’s bit on the side. However, Smith (Kevin that is) is wrong in his assumptions. The film may be designed to appeal to the tween girl who can’t get her face out of her phone, but it works on so many levels that it actually appeals to a wider audience. It appeals to anyone who grew up watching Gremlins and Critters. It appeals to anyone who loved Clueless. It even appeals to fans of Smith who loved his older work, thanks in part to cameos from the likes of Jason Mewes, Stan Lee, Kevin Conroy and Ralph Garman, as well as an unmistakable familiarity of watching two slackers in a convenience store. In reality, Smith is downplaying the cross-appeal of Yoga Hosers. This writer (a straight white male in his 30s) is not the target demographic of Yoga Hosers, but I had a blast.
This is mostly down the fantastic on-screen chemistry of Smith (Harley Quinn that is) and Depp (Lily-Rose, not Johnny). Best friends in real life, Smith and Depp are incredibly natural together and they both have an incredible on-screen presence that instantly makes you warm to them. Smith in particular is superb, but Depp’s deadpan Colleen C is also a real shining star. It almost feels like neither required much direction from either Smith’s father or indeed Johnny Depp who shares several scenes with the girls. Depp (Johnny that is) was a slight deterrent in Tusk as the rather annoying and easily dislikeable caricature Guy Lapointe, but he’s a wonderful addition to Yoga Hosers. He is clearly having the time of his life. And why not? He’s working for free with his daughter and his daughter’s friend on a movie that doesn’t need to make $1 billion at the box office to appease studio heads, in heavy amount of prosthetics doing a wacky voice in the kind of weird role he was known for in his early career. This is the Depp we once loved. Regardless of what you think about him in his new-found public persona (that conversation has no place in this review), it’s fun performances like this that made us all fall in love with this ‘failed musician’, as he often calls himself.
Smith (Kevin that is) also seems to be rejuvenated. During many of his worldwide Q&As or any of his dozens of weekly podcasts you will hear the director pour his soul about how he is just making movies for himself now, and his decisions to put in his daughter, friends and co-workers is less about nepotism and more about goofing off with his pals (something Adam Sandler has been criticised for in his later career). But whether you agree or not with his choices to constantly cast his wife or seed in movies, you can’t deny that Smith has found a new flair that he lost following the commercial and critical studio flop Cop Out. That Kevin Smith hated film critics and the medium that he had dedicated his 20s to, and he became a bitter director. This all changed with Red State and its even further on show with Yoga Hosers. Like Lloyd Kauffman and James Gunn, Smith has no inhibitions about what he puts on the screen and that plays to great effect in this movie. His carefree directing and constantly positive attitude on life means that Yoga Hosers is a fun romp from start to end with no pretention, pompousness or grandeur.
However, it is not all a bed of roses and in fact certain parts of Yoga Hosers really sting. For all the good Smith (Kevin that is) does with Smith (Harley) and both Depps, you’re true enjoyment of Yoga Hosers will depend on whether you find Kevin Smith dressed up as a tiny Nazi made of bratwurst wearing a Canadian Mountie uniform doing a stereotypical German accent funny. If you look at The Bratzi and laugh, then this ride is for you. But if you have never found Kevin Smith’s fascination with the Nazi party (an obsession that has created two separate segments on Hollywood Babble On and hours on content on Smodcast) to be that humorous, then the monsters in Yoga Hosers pose no threat or entertainment. There is a final monster towards the end of the movie that shows far more creativity, but it’s all over by that point and so you’re just left with pretty uninspired designs that are only there to be a pun. It’s a real shame, but better creatures in Yoga Hosers seriously would have improved the movie a great deal. The movie will be compared to creature-features like Gremlins, Critters and Ghoulies, but Yoga Hosers is missing that killer monster to truly put this alongside those 80s classics.
Perhaps more surprising in the negative column is the man behind Hollywood Babble On, Ralph Garman. Those who have listened to the show know that Garman is an incredible talent and an exceptionally funny man, but (Kevin) Smith’s love of his impressions and his desires to showcase them on a bigger stage than a weekly live podcast means that Garman doesn’t play a character in Yoga Hosers and instead acts out his voiceover showreel. The character of Arcane has been frozen for decades and upon being released from his cryogenic chamber studies the voices of American pop culture to do impressions of them. Long-time Babble On fans will know that this is Ralph’s shtick. His impressions of people like Al Pacino, Adam West, Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger are all great, but they have no place here in Yoga Hosers. This joke serves as a winking nod to fans of Hollywood Babble On and no one else, and that kind of inclusive comedy holds the movie down. For a film that is designed to appeal to tweens who are likely not au fait with Smith’s previous outings, this joke makes no sense and thus it falls spectacularly flat.
But even with these few gripes, there is no denying that Yoga Hosers is a hell of a lot of fun and a brilliantly entertaining watch. It may be set in the same universe as Tusk, but it’s a total 180 from that dark and twisted story. Yoga Hosers feels like a Troma movie directed by a (very talented) YouTuber. It’s far from perfect, but Harley Quinn Smith and Lily-Rose Depp’s amazing chemistry and on-screen presence is worth the price of admission alone, and a rare on-form Depp is always great to see. It’s stupid, messy and ultimately pointless, but Yoga Hosers may be Smith’s best film in quite some time.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Luke Owen is the Deputy Editor of Flickering Myth and the co-host of The Flickering Myth Podcast and Scooperhero News. You can follow him on Twitter @ThisisLukeOwen and read his weekly feature The Week in Star Wars.