“It looks like a Vancouver hockey riot in here”
You can’t fault Kevin Smith for having his heart in the right place. We can only blame his financiers for letting this True North trilogy crusade continue on with Yoga Hosers despite a short turnaround from script-to-screen neglecting the step of weighing its viability and worth against its vanity project underpinnings. Because that’s what it ultimately is: an excuse for the Depps and Smiths to have fun. We thought Tusk provided their escape, but that was merely the appetizer. The main course proves an outlandishly faux-Canadian adventure in the bowels of Manitoba’s secret Nazi past wherein two narcissistic best friends must combat Satanic serial killers, unfairly “basic” adults, and a tiny army of German bratwurst clones clad in Mountie uniforms running amok with unwanted cavity searches of death.
The impetus stemmed from the convergence of Smith’s fatherdom and fandom. After taking his daughter Harley Quinn to the movies her entire childhood, he blinded himself to the fact she tagged along for him and not what was onscreen. His wife Jennifer Schwalbach Smith had to finally break it down that no girl wants her heroes to always be men. Batman, Spider-Man, and Superman inherently take the spotlight and in turn create damsels in distress to save. They’re from a bygone era Hollywood can’t quite leave behind. When the light bulb lit directly after uttering, “But they won’t make Batgirl, et al,” Kevin finally understood he could fill that void by creating a female-centric superhero flick himself. Who says a pair of apathetic teens can’t save the world?
Yoga Hosers was therefore born as a showcase for his daughter and BFF Lily-Rose Depp to star as Tusk‘s scene-stealing duo Colleen M. and Colleen C. respectively while also providing an empowered feminist necessity unable to escape the reality a man over-using the phrase, “It’s the movie I wanted when I was a fourteen-year old girl” was at the helm. The irony is obvious and yet everyone involved does their best to ignore it in hopes the end product delivers the goods. But whom are those goods meant? Despite its cursing-riddled, barely PG-13-rated content with a goofily cartoonish plot targeting ten-year olds and a majority of jokes stemming from the juxtaposition that its heroines are too young to understand said jokes, the answer is thirty-something pop culture obsessives
I applaud Smith’s passion to do different things—they just can’t all be homeruns. This is a time where good intentions cannot salvage the result. There are two many bit parts adding nothing but absurd color (Genesis Rodriguez‘s gym teacher, Justin Long‘s Yogi Bear infringing yogi, and Stan Lee’s consummate meta turn as a 9-1-1 dispatcher); a villain (Ralph Garman) who’s remembered for his quality but irrelevant impersonations rather than the creepy sausage men he creates in an archaic laboratory; and the obnoxious repetition of the title being muttered under breath as an insult that’s contextually meaningless. Do we even care about the two Colleens as anything more than brats devoid of even one charitable bone between them? No. They’re horrible humans drawn for us to laugh at.
The film’s redeeming quality is the way it captures today’s youth through blatant generational caricatures—the tired, over-the-top farcical Canadian accents are unfortunately grating. I enjoyed the Instagram parody profiles of every character with blink-and-you’ll-miss-it text-based Easter eggs commenting on real life relationships, past roles, and random social media graffiti. I even liked how the whole thing becomes this massive middle finger to the critical sphere as sub-human entities raining on the sensitive artist’s parade. Its Clerks-lite construction doesn’t quite work, but the 2016 version of Dante and Randall as phone-obsessed valley girls plays regardless. The generalization that they only talk about boys and square parents, however, does a disservice to Smith’s goals. Complexity is what’s absent from Hollywood’s female characterizations and these heroines are still barely two-dimensional.
Girl Clerks would be great, but this sadly isn’t it. Yoga Hosers is more the female version of the Stygian Triplets from Dogma ridding the world of Nazi monsters—big and small—rather than kidnapping God. There isn’t enough on display for their personalities to go beyond “OMG” because Smith must shoehorn Johnny Depp‘s Guy Lapointe in and an over-long monologue of evil that bored the director enough to have it delivered through a series of impersonations. But a great gag like having the girls request Batman’s voice only to be confused when Adam West is heard doesn’t work when the audience Smith admits to making the film for also have no clue who Adam West is. The tone always skews too young for the jokes being told.
The whole is a loose series of sub-plots forgotten as soon as they’re introduced whether serial killers dismembering victims, a cock-blocking war between step-daughter and -mother, or rock band aspirations with a tattooed Adam Brody as their twice-their-age drummer. Each aside does help advance the main adventure, but in a conveniently ham-fisted way. Tyler Posey is fun, Depp’s make-up artist embraces Mel Brooks‘ mole gag from Men in Tights too tightly, and Smith is absolutely unhinged as the tiny Bratzis with high-pitched, broken German. You can tell everyone had a blast on set with a miniscule budget freeing all to experiment without major box office consequences. Beyond being a lark with a handful of laughs, though, this entry lacks the power—better or worse—Tusk surprisingly did possess.