Sundance Film Review: ‘Yoga Hosers’

Yoga Hosers
Courtesy of Sundance Film Festival

Harley Quinn Smith and Lily-Rose Depp star in Kevin Smith's latest cobbled-together live-action cartoon.

If it’s true, as Kevin Smith noted in his lengthy introductory remarks at Sundance, that “failure is just success training,” then he should be in the best shape of his career after “Yoga Hosers,” an imbecilic, strenuously wacky helping of see-what-sticks juvenilia that finds the director continuing the “True North Trilogy” he began with 2013’s rather more endurable “Tusk.” Crossing a high-school comedy with a small-town gremlin movie, this cobbled-together live-action cartoon supplies an endless stream of Canada jokes in service of a plot about a hostile takeover by long-dormant Manitoban Nazis who take the form of sodomy-inclined sausages. The casting of Harley Quinn Smith and Lily-Rose Depp (the daughters of Smith and Johnny Depp, reprising his “Tusk” role here) as two endlessly sarcastic, butt-kicking teenage heroines helps the time pass more bearably than it might have otherwise, but really, to shackle two lovely and promising teenage actresses to material this dreadful could be reasonably construed as an awfully expensive form of child abuse.

Those who saw “Tusk” will remember the yoga hosers of the title, both of whom share the same first name, and are helpfully referred to throughout as Colleen C. (Lily-Rose Depp) and Colleen M. (Harley Quinn Smith). When we first catch up with these surly high-school sophomores, they’re taking a break from their stultifyingly dull jobs at a Winnipeg convenience store to perform in the back with their amateur girl band, which consists of the two of them and a heavily tatted 35-year-old loser named Ichabod (Adam Brody) on drums.

The Colleens fit a comically exaggerated stereotype of modern teenagers by remaining glued to their phones, constantly texting, tweeting and introducing the other characters in the movie via photos and hashtags that they’ve uploaded to Instagram — or, as it’s known in these Canuck parts, Insta-Can. That’s about the level of wit to which Smith’s script occasionally rises (but never falls) as it trots out an array of uninspired and repetitive Great White North gags that make one long for the comparative wit of “Canadian Bacon.” Reopening their store after a long delay, the Colleens repeatedly murmur “Sorry ‘boot that” as their customers grumpily stock up on artisanal maple syrup and hockey-themed breakfast cereals (Pucky Charms, eh?).

The plot points that eventually materialize seem to have been written down on index cards and pulled randomly out of a toque. The girls despise Tabitha (Natasha Lyonne), the irritating new squeeze of Colleen C.’s hapless dad (Tony Hale), but they’re rather fonder of Yogi Bayer (Justin Long, sporting a beard and awesomely colorful workout pants), whose studio they visit regularly to learn such cutting-edge yoga moves as “the pretentious frog.” Then they meet up with two older high-school dudes (played by Austin Butler and Tyler Posey) who turn out to be knife-wielding Satan worshippers, though they’re happily taken out of commission when they’re anally penetrated and gutted from within by the aforementioned sausage-Nazis — each of which is basically a small bratwurst with Hitler-esque features and dressed in red Canadian Mountie garb (animated via deliberately crude f/x).

Viewers who have been paying close attention (though why they would is a mystery) won’t be terribly surprised by this development, since the Colleens earlier received an extended lecture from their history teacher (Vanessa Paradis) on the area’s latent Nazi population — as illustrated through black-and-white mock-archival footage of the villainous Adrien Arcand (Haley Joel Osment) trying to start his own Third Reich by blaming unemployment on “the fault of the Canadian Jew” and proposing the launch of “Le Solution Finale.” And so the Colleens must put their yoga moves to good work and stop the Nazis and their evil present-day commandant (Ralph Garman), forcing them to team up with “Tusk’s” beret-wearing manhunter, Guy Lapointe — again energetically played by Depp, unrecognizable as ever beneath heavy makeup, mustache and facial pock marks that seem to change location at random.

Harley Quinn Smith and especially Lily-Rose Depp have sufficient spunk, spark and chemistry (and they’re charming bopping through an end-credits cover of “O Canada”) that you long to see them in a starring vehicle that doesn’t look and feel like an on-screen underwear stain. Shot and edited with the sort of willful slovenliness that presumably fits the anything-goes grab-bag effect Smith was going for, “Yoga Hosers” looks as though it was probably pretty fun to make, though only the director’s hardcore fans and SModcast listeners are likely to find that pleasure in any way infectious. Yet while it’s hard to imagine the result landing even in the vicinity of “Tusk’s” disappointing $1.9 million domestic gross, the end credits blithely warn us that Smith’s franchise will continue soon enough with “Moose Jaws.” But really, he should just give it the ‘boot.

Sundance Film Review: ‘Yoga Hosers’

Reviewed at Sundance Film Festival (Midnight), Jan. 25, 2016. Running time: 87 MIN.

Production

A Starstream Media presentation, in association with Abbolita Films, Demarest Films, Invincible Entertainment Partners, XYZ Films, of a Destro Films production of a Smodcast Pictures photoplay. Produced by Liz Destro, Jordan Monsanto, Jennifer Schwalbach. Executive producers, Nate Bolotin, Aram Tertzakian, Sam Englebardt, William D. Johnson, David S. Greathouse, J.C. Reifenberg, Andrew Heaberlin, Tim Nye, Thomas Ashley, J. Andrew Greenblatt, Brandon Hogan, Shannon McIntosh, Charles Bonan, Kim Leadford, Daniel McCarney, Peter Pietrangeli, Cole Klapman. Co-producers, John Hinkson, Jordan Kessler, Daniel McGilvray, Tom Farrell, Alan Pao, Luke Daniels. Co-executive producers, Robert Marcin, Steven Pottash, Bill Rogin, Steve Meerson, Peter Krikes.

Crew

Directed, written by Kevin Smith. Camera (color), James R. Laxton; editor, Kevin Smith; music, Christopher Drake; music supervisor, Bruce Gilbert; production designer, Cabot McMullen; art director, Brett McKenzie; set decorator, Kris Fuller; set designer, Darcy Prevost; costume designer, Carol Beadle; sound, Amanda Beggs; supervising sound editors, Kelly Oxford, Tony Lamberti; special makeup effects producer, Robert Kurtzman; special effects supervisor, Joe Pancake; special effects coordinator, Rick Hill; visual effects supervisor, Andrew McElfresh; line producer, Tracey Landon; associate producers, Josh Bachove, Jason Mewes, Tara Moross; assistant director, Alisa Fredericks.

With

Lily-Rose Depp, Harley Quinn Smith, Justin Long, Austin Butler, Adam Brody, Ralph Garman, Tony Hale, Natasha Lyonne, Haley Joel Osment, Vanessa Paradis, Tyler Posey, Genesis Rodriguez, Jennifer Schwalbach, Sasheer Zamata, Harley Morenstein, Smashley Greene, Jason Mewes, Johnny Depp. (English, French, German dialogue)

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  1. V. Reynauld says:

    This should surprise no one. This is almost literally a movie made solely for his daughter because she wanted to be in a movie. Beyond that it’s not like Kevin Smith is some kind of deep storytelling genius. He’s just not. He’s a self-confessed fat stoner who has lucked out and gets to make niche, usually unintelligible, films for a living while acting like a critic and super fan about other franchises. I don’t know why anyone pays to see his garbage in the theaters, you know EXACTLY what you’re going to get. Dogma was the pinnacle of his career and frankly that movie was carried almost entirely by Matt Damon and Alan Rickman.

  2. Mike says:

    You so called “critics” have no taste. Movies are allowed to be different and fun. You don’t like it you don’t like it, but just absolutely trashing it as of you’re offended by it because it’s not an Oscar bait movie is just pathetic.

  3. HappyDayWarrior says:

    You forgot to mention the part in that Sundance commentary you started with at the beginning of the review, where Smith basically said he wasn’t making the movie for people like you, but for his fans, and the people who listen to his pod network, and finally, to hang out with his daughter for a couple of weeks.

    I really don’t think he was planning on taking Hollywood by storm with this, and he might even be happy you bothered to watch it.

  4. Jill says:

    You really should have warned readers that your review is full of spoilers. Writing a review full of spoilers without a warning is as bad as talking in the theatre

  5. Dave Ochs says:

    I’m not sure if you liked the flick or not… I’m glad Chief Film Critic Justin Chang is on the beat to let dullards like me know what I should and shouldn’t like.

  6. A Canadian Who Speaks Proper English says:

    TUSK was unbelievably bad and on so many cultural/screenwriting levels. And while I’m sure Mr. Smith likes Canada, he really doesn’t get the Canadian psyche; he’s actually quite moronic in this regard. And like a fellow poster wrote: enough with the “aboot” thing; “Ooot” and “aboot” may be spoken in Labrador/Newfoundland (and even then I’m not certain)…it certainly doesn’t get spoken in the rest of this enormous sea-to-sea country. That’s like the rest of the world thinking that everybody in the States says “Y’all”.

  7. Matt says:

    Honestly, as a Canadian, the aboot thing, the “eh” thing, “hoser” and the maple syrup everywhere is getting a little stale. Come up with new material, guys. I don’t mind getting made fun of but when it’s the same shite for 20 years it kinda just makes you groan after a while.

    Also we don’t do the freshman/sophomore/junior/senior thing. It’s just Grade 9, Grade 10, etc.

  8. Kevin Smith makes good movies and i’m sure Yoga Hosers will be great if you gave it a chance.

    • Vik says:

      Kevin Smith used to make good movies. He then started getting high and mistakenly thought that writing random films that amounted to nothing was fine, because at least he’s writing whilst high!

  9. The idea that anything by Kevin Smith could go over the head of anyone but a very dim toddler is funnier than anything in any of Smith’s movies.

  10. Ed Haas says:

    lol, clearly the entire movie went WAY over your head. I suppose you didn’t watch any b-films from the 80’s.

  11. cadavra says:

    Sorry, Justin, but your description makes it sound like a hoot and a half. It may be as bad as you say it is, but I’m definitely going to decide that for myself.

  12. Drizzt says:

    Ming Chen rocks. Put him in your next movie to make big $$$$

  13. kenfurman46 says:

    More Sundance Indy Shite proves that the amateurs have taken over the asylum. As for k Smith he has Iver extended his welcome by 20 years.

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