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Sundance Film Review: ‘Yoga Hosers’

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

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)

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3838992/

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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