Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Smith Way: Flat, dopey "Yoga Hosers" doesn't deserve its peppy leads

Yoga Hosers (2016)
88 min., rated PG-13.

In case you don’t remember the pair of unimpressed Manitoba convenience-store clerks in Kevin Smith’s 2014 walrus horror film “Tusk,” a whole movie has been dedicated to them in what is the second chapter to Smith’s “True North” trilogy. They are played by Harley Quinn Smith, Kevin’s daughter, and Lily-Rose Depp, Johnny’s daughter, and their scrappy enthusiasm might be the best part of this anemic, flat-footed slacker piffle. Otherwise, “Yoga Hosers” represents writer-director Smith getting in touch with his inner teenage girl; that is, if your inner teenage likes getting baked. It should play as the type of undemanding, likably spirited “Bill & Ted”-ish lark that girls the same age as its protagonists might put on at a slumber party, but one can’t imagine anyone enjoying this nepotistic exercise more than the Smiths and the Depps.

When 15-and-a-half-year-old best friends Colleen McKenzie (Harley Quinn Smith) and Colleen Collette (Lily-Rose Depp) aren’t glued to their cell phones and complaining that everyone around them is so “basic,” they are practicing yoga and jamming in the back of their workplace, convenience store Eh-2-Zed. Once they get invited to a grade 12 party by hunky upperclassman Hunter Calloway (Austin Butler), they end up having to go in to work for the store manager, Colleen C’s father (Tony Hale), who’s going on vacation with his girlfriend (Natasha Lyonne) to Niagara Falls. The Colleens would be the last to realize that their boring night behind the counter would turn into their defeat of a long-hidden Winnipeg Nazi (Ralph Garman) and his army of murderous foot-tall bratwursts called “Bratzis” with the aid of bumbling Quebecois manhunter Guy Lapointe (Johnny Depp). Pretty "basic," eh?

Trying hard to be hip and never really working, “Yoga Hosers” is crammed with snarky millennial teenspeak that would make Diablo Cody face-palm and an initially cute but ultimately tiresome “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World”-like profile introduction for every petty character that the viewer will never see again. Aside from a lovely montage cued to the Colleens' rendition of Styx's "Babe," there are one too many jam sessions. And, with the film being set in Canada, the "Canadians talk funny, eh?" joke stops being amusing after, maybe, the fifth "aboot." Kevin Smith doesn’t intend to take any of this seriously, so neither should audiences, but that doesn’t mean it deserves a pass. If taken as an aspiringly great movie, it is drivel, but even with a delightfully stupid lark, which this clearly is, there should be more wit and less self-pleased wackiness. 

Front and center as the Colleens, real-life 17-year-old childhood friends Harley Quinn Smith and Lily-Rose Depp are peppy and adorable—or should we say “adorbz”—in front of the camera. They aren’t exactly revelations or breakout stars, but they are charming, have a natural chemistry with each other, and could have film careers if they wanted them. Meanwhile, Kevin Smith called in a lot of favors with a little help from his friends, including Justin Long, not in his walrus suit but in spandex as the Colleens’ teacher Yoga Bayer; Haley Joel Osment, as the Canadian Hitler; and somehow, a cameo-ready Stan Lee. As for Johnny Depp reprising his role as doofus inspector Guy Lapointe, he’s vaguely more amusing and less talky than he was in “Tusk” but still grating all the same. At least here, Lapointe doesn’t feel like he’s coming out of a different movie entirely. Finally, through the tacky—and not even charmingly tacky—use of green screen, Smith is seemingly shrunk and cloned to play one of multiple “Bratzis.”

Irresistibly loopy as the "Clerks" creator's first "kids' movie" sounds, featuring the Führer's sausage babies, a Nazi scientist spelling out his heinous backstory in the voices of Al Pacino and Sylvester Stallone, and Satan-worshipping serial killers, to boot, “Yoga Hosers” isn’t half as fun to watch as it probably was to make. Whereas 2011's “Red State” marked the "human hockey jersey's" auspicious direction into disturbing horror and “Tusk” was an insane whackadoo that, for all its self-indulgences, was ballsy enough to follow through to its logical conclusion, this horror-comedy effort is just shaggy and dopey. It’s almost as if Smith is laughing at his own jokes, but the jokes almost never land anyway. Guess you had to be there. It’s unfortunate that “Yoga Hosers” is such a lamely executed dud because it seems to come from a place of love, and it has a certain harmlessly goofy naïveté that keeps one from getting too angry about it. A premise this random and weird could have worked as inspired lunacy, but maybe it just wasn’t meant to be this time. Whatever spark the girls showcase here will hopefully be in the service of a much better script when the Colleens return for “Moose Jaws.” 

Grade: C - 

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