Full disclosure: I’m a Kevin Smith fan from the way back. I’ve taken road trips to Red Bank, New Jersey, where he filmed Clerks. I’ve been to two or three of his Q&A sessions and a panel he moderated at the San Diego Comic-Con in 2011. I like Jersey Girl. Hell, I even wore a “Berserker” shirt to the Yoga Hosers screening I attended while on vacation in Las Vegas (I’m from Northern Virginia, by the way). So when I say that I was a little weirded out at Yoga Hosers, please know that it’s coming from a guy who reads the “Bluntman and Chronic” and “Chasing Dogma” (limited, signed edition) comic books whilst on the toilet.
Here’s what’s at stake: two convenience store clerks find themselves battling Satanists, miniature bratwurst Nazis (“Bratzis”), and the drudgery of high school life when you’ve got a superiority complex. Looking at that brief summary, it sounds like something you’d catch on Showtime late at night, not something from the man who wrote Chasing Amy, one of the most blindingly personal and humanistic films of all time. But looking at it a different way, I’d say Smith is in what I call “The Robert Rodriguez Era” of his career – he made a family-oriented (well, as “family-oriented” as a Kevin Smith film can be) with his own family and friends because he could. And how can you not at least give small deference to a film which starts with an enthusiastic cover of Anthrax’s “I’m The Man”?
Yoga Hosers flies from conflict to conflict without stopping; the term “all over the place” comes to mind, as plot points and characters are randomly dropped in and never heard from again, as if Smith wanted to put a bunch of random scenes together with no cohesive glue to bind them. Well, that’s not exactly true; what binds everything together are the heroes of our story, Colleen Collette (Lily-Rose Depp) and Colleen McKenzie (Harley Quinn Smith). “The Colleens” have been best friends since birth, doing everything together, including being register jockeys at Everything Eh-2-Zed, a local convenience store in Winnipeg, Manitoba. They’re typical Generation Z (or is it Generation Zed, considering their Canadian origins?) teenagers – snarky, narcissistic, defiant, and morbidly hooked on social media. When you think of how society is going to Hell in a handbasket because no one’s kind or cares anymore about anything, these two are a shining example of the reason why.
It doesn’t matter if they’re dealing with the lecherous drummer in their band (a near-unrecognizable Adam Brody), Colleen C.’s gold-digging stepmother (Natasha Lyonne) who’s dug her claws into her pushover father (Tony Hale), manhunter Guy LaPointe (Johnny Depp) investigating multiple murders, or even their jobs at the Eh-2-Zed. They’re the detached, “Let’s take a selfie while the world burns!” girly-girls who don’t care about anything except their outfits and their yoga exercises taught to them by Yogi Bayer (Justin Long). Smith’s script takes us on a wild, holy-crap-what-was-that ride as The Colleens and LaPointe – three of the four returning characters from Smith’s 2014 horror film Tusk (the fourth being his wife Jennifer Schwalbach Smith as a waitress), of which Yoga Hosers is spun off – cross paths after Colleen M.’s love interest Hunter (Austin Butler) tries to sacrifice her to Satan, only to be made a victim himself by one of the aforementioned Bratzis (all played by Smith under heavy prosthetics).
Smith also seizes the opportunity to take potshots at everything and everyone with this movie. The lazy conceit of today’s internet trolls, the critics who handed him his ass over Cop Out (which I actually dug on first viewing, darn it! It was Smith’s most kinetic Hollywood effort!), the proliferation of shady exercise fads – there’s so much material which Smith tries to handle with a sense of humor. However, it’s a sense of humor that only the hardest of his hardcore fans will get and appreciate. After hearing me explain several moments and references in Yoga Hosers, my wife said, “Jesus. You just went completely dark web on me. Are you coming back?”
Yoga Hosers is a silly, frivolous film with moments which could have only come from Smith’s self-admitted marijuana use; I abhor bringing the personal lives of creators into my reviews, but this has some bearing upon the proceedings. I mean, come on – the Bratzis? The out-of-left-field Satanist plot? There’s no excuse for a lot of this movie but heavy toke-age. And quite possibly, this film would be way more enjoyable under that drug’s influence. (Not encouraging, just postulating.) But it also seeks to fill a void created by male-driven superhero movies, with females being underrepresented each and every summer in these action blockbusters. Does it succeed? Well, if you want to call a film about two teenage social media addicts kicking the living stuffing out of little sausage men “succeeding,” then yes.
It’s Smith’s most out-there film to date, calling back to bits of his entire career from Clerks to Tusk, being unapologetically flip and irreverent as he serves up a B-movie on his own terms. It’s a B-movie in every sense – dubious special effects, a lurid story (think Mean Girls crossed with Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS), and overblown caricatures of one-dimensional figures. But it’s got a hell of an encore performance by Johnny Depp as Guy LaPointe (seriously, how many moles does he have and where are they going to pop up next? It’s a funny nod to Marty Feldman and his hump in Young Frankenstein, any way you cut it), and sweetly endearing performances by his daughter Lily-Rose and Smith’s daughter Harley Quinn. Even though their characters embody everything that pisses you off about internet culture these days, you can’t help but jump in the car and go along for the ride. Yoga Hosers isn’t Chasing Amy; it’s not even Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. Then again, it’s not trying to be either of those; instead, picture this as Smith’s ode to midnight movies with a heaping helping of female empowerment.