Film Review: ‘Yoga Hosers’ is Kevin Smith’s love letter to teen cinema

yoga_hosersNow a dozen films in, I think folks know where they stand when it comes to multi hyphenate Kevin Smith. Some are consistently charmed by his view of the world, while some just wish he’d grow up. I’m a shameless member of the former group. As someone who considers Smith among his favorite filmmakers, his new movie was right up my alley. Yoga Hosers, his second Canadian horror comedy based off of a podcast, is pretty much for fans only, but it’s a ton of fun. This is the sort of situation where filmmaker intent comes into play. Smith clearly wanted to make a cheesy homage to the teen flicks of the 1980’s. He’s done that for sure, with the gender swapping of having this centered on teenaged girls.

Yoga Hosers is a silly and almost unwaveringly plucky horror comedy.  It represents Smith not only looking at life through the eyes of female youth, but having the time of his life doing so. For all of its flaws, this is a fun and charming movie, one that is obsessed with winning you over. It works best for fans of Smith’s podcasts or the tone he put forward in Tusk, though fans of his in general will likely find that the good outweighs the bad. I won’t deny that this is one of Smith’s lesser outings, but it’s a flick that manages to have something to ultimately say about the relationship artists and critics have with each other, between cheesy dad jokes, that is. Yoga Hosers knows what it is, and Smith has everyone involved embrace that spirit.

The plot is almost an afterthought here. Colleen McKenzie (Harley Quinn Smith) and Colleen Colette (Lily-Rose Depp) are Canadian teens more concerned with texting than their menial convenience store job. When foot tall Nazis made of sausage, dubbed Bratzis (Kevin Smith), rise up from the bowels of the store, the Colleen’s spring into action. Using their yoga skills, along with an assistance from manhunter Guy LaPointe (Johnny Depp), they fight back. They may have wanted to just be at a senior party, but hey, they weren’t even supposed to be here today. Most of the plot is just an excuse for Canada based humor.

The two Colleens are the central characters, though hardly the only ones. In addition to Guy LaPointe, there’s a whole host of supporting players. Colleen C’s father (Tony Hale), for one, who owns the store. There’s also a mad Nazi scientist (Ralph Garman), who speaks in just actor impersonations. Yes, you read that right. It’s a film very much following the beat of its own drummer. That may not work for some, but for others, it could be the stoner flick you’ve been waiting for. Story wise, it’s a weaker effort from Smith, but he makes up for it in other ways.

Yoga-Hosers-movieActing wise, the cast is hit or miss. The leads are plucky and have a screen presence about them, so look out for more from Lily-Rose Depp and Harley Quinn Smith. Tony Hale also is having a ball with his cartoonish interpretation of a teen movie dad. I also was amused by Ralph Garman, essaying a very unique villain. Also successful is Justin Long, really funny as the aptly named mentor Yogi Bayer. Johnny Depp though, who worked for me in Tusk, grinds Yoga Hosers to a halt with his mugging. I also found Tyler Posey atrocious as one of the senior boys with the party invitation. Austin Butler plays the other and doesn’t fare much better. Somewhere in between are the likes of Adam Brody, Natasha Lyonne, Jason Mewes, Haley Joel Osment, Vanessa Paradis, Genesis Rodriguez, Jennifer Schwalbach Smith, and more.

Writer/director Smith, an unconventional auteur, embraces anarchy more than ever before in Yoga Hosers. His direction reminded me of Scott Pilgrim vs The World, taking that visual approach. Here, it’s applied with various cues geared towards social media, as opposed to video games. His writing isn’t near the level of Clerks of Chasing Amy, but he does hit on a few points. When the third act becomes about artists and critics, there’s some subtle commentary being thrown around. I also enjoyed his editing, which is pretty brisk. Mostly though, Smith is just seeking to make a fun teen movie for girls.  The humor is mostly on the surface level, but occasionally some real witty moments come through. In particular, the name of a knife made me laugh out loud.

It’s undeniable that Smith’s visual skills as a director are improving as time goes on, with cinematographer James Laxton certainly helping in that regard. It’s not a huge step forward here, but it’s something new from him, without question. The days of a camera stuck in just one place are gone. Also of note, Christopher Drake‘s score, which wears its various influences on its sleeves like a badge of honor. In fact, the music is probably one of the best parts of the flick. Between Drake, Laxton, and Smith’s own editing, the behind the scenes work is capably handled. The visual effects are pretty cut-rate, but intentionally so, which deflects any real complaints there.

Overall, Yoga Hosers managed to win me over, and not just because I’m a fan of Smith’s. It’s rough around the edges, but with an energy that’s infectious. Smith is experimenting and trying new things, and while that won’t work for everyone, it worked for me. He had a more consistent horror outing with Tusk, but this film turns on the charm and tickles your funny bone. When all is said and done after Moose Jaws next, I look forward to Smith moving on from this True North Trilogy, but I definitely appreciate this universe he’s created. Smith is under appreciated in the industry and while that won’t change anytime soon, this movie is probably destined to be a cult classic. If weird stoner cinema crossed with 80’s teen movies is your thing, Yoga Hosers will be right up your alley.

“Yoga Hosers” is distributed by Invincible Pictures and hits theaters on September 2nd, 2016

Grade: (★★★)

Trailer

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