Kevin Smith’s latest feature, the blatantly Canadian-set Yoga Hosers, feels at first like an unofficial Clerks 3 graduated to a new generation to include Instagram, yoga, an attempt at current slang, and a female empowerment angle. Indeed, most characters are introduced through an Instagram insert that adds no information to the character that was not already presented through narrative context.
The film is also a horror movie about bratwurst Nazis. And a musical, kind of. It paints Canada like a fantasy world completely alien to American audiences, so alien that the majority of the mostly American cast mainly talk in American accents save for the emphatic “aboots” that abound throughout the film. Then there is Haley Joel Osment trying for a German accent.
To be fair, let’s take it for granted that Smith made a purposeful choice to create a disappearing act with his film’s accents, some sort of comedic commentary on the ignorance of America’s view of their neighbors to the north. Sparing him this, Yoga Hosers is not Clerks 3.
The film follows two high school friends named Colleen (played by Harley Quinn Smith and Lily-Rose Depp, the daughters of the film’s director and co-star, respectively). The Colleens work at a convenience store named “Eh-to-Zed,” and they were previously featured in Smith’s last film Tusk. This spiritual sequel is a loose narrative about high school life, including the Colleens being forced to work in lieu of attending a senior class party. It is also a story about the aforementioned killer sausage krauts, and there is another horror plotline involved as well.
The film’s setup is essentially one long diversion. Our characters and the important setting is introduced in the first ten minutes, and then we are whisked away into a lengthy school sequence that serves no narrative function. Characters are introduced, given long dialogues with our heroes, and then disappear from the film. That is save for Johnny Depp’s reprisal of his Guy Lapointe role, a character that has outstayed his welcome in the public consciousness, the initial novelty of an A-lister donning a penis-shaped nose gone.
About 40 minutes into the film, the plot begins. Even so, there is little in terms of a story. Or comedy. Smith mumbling German gibberish is good for a chuckle or two, but when it continues throughout a five minute scene it loses steam fast.
For what it’s worth, Harley Quinn Smith and Lily-Rose have decent chemistry with one another. It is when they interact with others in the film that they begin slipping flat.
The real star of the show is the Justin Beiber lookalike Austin Butler, whose fluttering eyelash madness is the only developing character in the movie. His short arc makes for effective comedy and scripting while it lasts.
Yoga Hosers is best viewed as an homage to B-movie exploitation horror films. In that sense, it at least makes sense to have such low quality visual effects. Mostly, however, the film is a sign of one of two things, or perhaps a combination of the two. In one reading, Kevin Smith is growing lazy as his career progresses, literally taking ideas spit-balled on his podcast and throwing them together into feature length films. This, or he is simply losing his touch for quality screenwriting.
Smith also takes what could be an austere shot structure worth commending for its simple touch and ramps it up to a less auspicious visual aesthetic that cuts too often and uses too many angles. Some scenes, like a pivotal verbal altercation between the heroes and the film’s eventual antagonist, make great use of a shot-reverse shot structure that places the camera right on the 180-degree line. This scene is then inundated by angles that become more and more canted as the scene goes on.
There are some minor aspects of the film that deserve some credit. The constantly changing position of moles on Guy Lapointe’s face is a fun detail. The constant movie references, although hit or miss, at least show more thought than the film’s puns.
The final act present a conundrum to the movie critics who aim to tear down this film of Smith’s. This is purposeful, of course, an intriguing self-aware turn that is genuinely unexpected. It is also ill-conceived, given that the film aims to prevent its own inevitable criticism by having a character set out to destroy all critics. However, the character just so happens to be a Nazi. The meta-commentary kind of gets lost in this.
Yoga Hosers, even if viewed as a B-movie creature feature, is a messy film that dawdles where it needs not and expedites where it should develop. As such, it feels like grabbing for substance to be a Kevin Smith fan watching this film. Then again, even the biggest Smith apologist has likely been disappointed at some point in Smith’s career.
Yoga Hosers: D+
Perhaps I should use the Post-Script editorial section this go around to address this before I anger any Kevin Smith fans: I like Smith. Kind of, anyway. Clerks is a lightning-in-a-bottle film with a cracker jack script that I can hear time and time again without getting tired of its wit. As for his more recent output, I enjoy the genre hybridity of Red State, even if it loses steam during its climax. At least it tries to be something different. Yoga Hosers is “different,” but that doesn’t mean good.
Smith may think that the “haters gonnna hate, hate, hate, hate,” but genuine film criticism is not hate. It’s love. Love of the form, that is. You can’t tread water through the production of a film and expect critics who love the form to take it lying down, and Yoga Hosers is easily his least productive film to date.
As always, thanks for reading!
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—Alex Brannan (@TheAlexBrannan)