Doing yoga can be hard. You must contort your body into all manner of seemingly unnatural poses while trying to clear your mind of external distractions. Making a movie about yoga can be equally hard, as it turns out, especially when those external distractions take the form of miniature anthropomorphic Nazi sausages and Johnny Depp as a cartoonishly over-the-top Canadian bounty hunter. And that is exactly what audiences experienced last night at the Sundance Film Festival during the midnight premiere of Kevin Smith’s Yoga Hosers, a spin-off of 2014’s Tusk.While the film starts out strong — thanks in large part to its stars, Lily-Rose Depp and Harley Quinn Smith — it ultimately collapses under the weight of its own wordplay, feeling more like a collection of inside jokes and forced puns rather than the female Clerks reboot I never knew I wanted.
“Failure is just success training,” said Smith during a lengthy pre-show introduction in which he reflected on his career which kicked off at Sundance some 22 years ago. While Yoga Hosers isn’t a failure, it isn’t exactly a success either. More than anything, Yoga Hosers is deeply silly, constantly strange, and occasionally an awful lot of fun. The film feels like a strange blend of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Clerks, and Josie and the Pussycats, with Smith’s sophomoric silliness peppered throughout. For Smith, this is a very personal project as it stars both his daughter, Harley Quinn Smith, and Johnny Depp’s daughter, Lily-Rose Depp. The girls have been friends ever since kindergarten, and made their on-screen debut in Tusk as a pair of convenience store clerks, which turned out to be a special experience for both the proud papas and their daughters alike.
After filming, Smith found himself constantly watching and rewatching the scene, trying to figure out why it resonated so much with him. Then light dawned on Marblehead: he realized that he was essentially looking at a female version of Clerks. That premise would have been more sustainable and, perhaps ultimately more successful, but Kevin Smith was not satisfied with making the cinematic equivalent of french fries; he wanted to make poutine, and thus kept layering more and more on to the slacker comedy, adding in a horror element in order to make this the second entry in his Canada-set True North trilogy. Smith’s sense of play and his genuine pleasure making this movie are palpable as he gleefully veers from high school and workplace drudgery to aggressively stupid conspiracy theories and monster movie madness. The result is something unlike anything I’ve seen from the director before — but perhaps some restraint would have improved the final product.
Lily-Rose Depp and Harley Quinn Smith star as The Colleens, the titular yoga hosers, who are a pair of cellphone-addicted, yoga-obsessed teens working at the stupendously dull Winnipeg convenience store Eh-2-Zed. Helpfully referred to as Colleen M. (Smith) and Colleen C. (Depp), the girls use sarcasm like a paladin’s greatsword to rend asunder any who get in their way, especially Tabitha (Natasha Lyonne), the scheming main squeeze of Colleen C.’s goofball dad (Tony Hale), as well as their overbearing, millennial-hating gym teacher (Genesis Rodriguez). They spend their day taking selfies, rapidly texting one another, and throwing all manner of shade at everyone within eyeshot. Based on that description alone, one might be inclined to dislike the dynamic duo, but their rapid-fire repartee and teenaged slacker attitude are undeniably charming thanks to Depp and Smith’s on-screen chemistry and charismatic performances.
At first, the film seems to be finding its own groove and feels like a millennial riot grrl version of Clerks, as we see the Colleens suffering through the trials and travails of high school; taking yoga classes from a strip mall yogi named, yes, Yogi Bayer (Justin Long), who teaches them unorthodox moves like “The Pretentious Frog” and “The Three-Legged Dog”; and playing in their pop punk band Glamthrax in the Eh-2-Zed’s back room alongside a hapless, tattooed burnout of a drummer named Ichabod (Adam Brody). The Colleens are spunky, relatable, and silly enough that you can’t help but root for them. You cheer when they get invited to a twelfth-grade party by their collective crush, and you groan when they’re forced to work on a Friday night instead of going to said party. Honestly, if this had been Josie and the Pussyclerks, I would have left the theater a happy camper. However, that was not to be the case as something is rotten in the province of Manitoba.
About halfway through the film, a weird plotline begins to unfold about a series of murders ravaging the Winnipeg area, and it’s tied to the secret history of the Canadian Nazi Party. One thing leads to another and soon the girls find themselves having to fend off all manner of wieners — both in the form of two handsome twelfth graders, who turn out to be a pair of stabby Satanists, and in the form of sodomy-obsessed Nazi gremlins made of sentient bratwurst (a.k.a. “Brat-zis”). Joined by Johnny Depp’s off-puttingly strange detective Guy Lapointe, the girls must use their yoga moves to lay the smackdown on the anti-semitic sausages and stop the foul fascist plot before it’s too late. If this sounds like too much to follow, don’t worry — Ralph Garman’s evil Nazi scientist eventually explains the how and the why of it all through a rapid-fire series of impersonations ranging from Al Pacino to Sylvester Stallone. It’s an unsatisfying climax, to say the least, and it’s particularly frustrating given the film’s promising start.
The film’s deepest conviction lies in Smith’s belief that everything about Canada is inherently hilarious, with eye-rolling puns coming in a close second. (Case in point, the hockey-themed breakfast cereal, “Pucky Charms”). There’s a host of fun cameos, too, which keep the audience constantly guessing as to who might appear next. The crude special effects, constant barrage of on-screen graphic overlays, and goofy creature design almost give the film a live-action cartoon quality, like you’re watching an oddball adaptation of a forgotten ’90s relic. It’s unfortunate, though, that the film decides to lean full-on into action-comedy towards the end because the action sequences are particularly uninspired, even though we’re treated to the novelty of using yoga as a deadly martial art. The film is at its best when we’re focusing on the daily mundane adventures of the Colleens, rather than seeing the girls deal with supernatural stupidity.
So, should you see Yoga Hosers? That depends. It’s nowhere nearly as horrifying as Tusk, and it isn’t as funny as Clerks, but it’s not without its merits. If you’re a diehard Kevin Smith fan, then this may well be up your alley. Otherwise, you have to ask yourself just how many jokes at the expense of our Northern neighbors and groanworthy puns you can handle. Smith will continue to make whatever films he wants to make with whomever he wants to make them with, and I respect that. Moreover, Yoga Hosers is a promising debut for Lily-Rose Depp and Harley Quinn Smith, and I look forward to seeing what they do next. For my money, I would happily watch another movie about the Colleens, but if I ever see a mustachioed mutant sausage again, it’ll be far, far too soon.
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 burritos
For our complete Sundance coverage, click here.
Images: Invincible Pictures / SModcast Pictures / XYZ Films