Kevin Smith’s rise to fame has become the stuff of independent cinema legend. Armed with ambition, plus several thousands of dollars from maxed out credit cards and refunded film school money, Smith set out to put his friends and the things they found funny on the big screen with Clerks. Love him or hate him, Smith took his dreams and made them a reality, telling the stories he wanted to tell exactly how he wanted to tell them.
Several years ago, Smith hinted at an impending retirement, stating that he lacked personal stories from which to draw on for inspiration. He didn’t want to tell stories his heart wasn’t in. Smith has however since cancelled said retirement with the creation of SModcast Pictures, a production company behind a series of films—like his 2014 film Tusk, and now Yoga Hosers, both part of his Canadian trilogy—that often borrow largely from his podcast of the same name. With his company, Smith is practically daring himself to make the most batshit ideas he can come up with into films. His passion for storytelling has evolved from personal reflections on everyday life into one attempt after another to see how deep he can delve into insanity and still find funding.
While Tusk was simply a podcast conversation turned into a full-blown film, Yoga Hosers has more noble intentions as its inspiration. Raising a daughter, Smith wanted to give the young women of the next generation a film to compare to the near-constant, male-centric superhero films being released. So Smith created Yoga Hosers, borrowing heavily from films like Clueless and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World—which are better films that the upcoming generation of teen girls should watch instead of Yoga Hosers.
In it, two very minor characters from Tusk—Colleen C. (Lily-Rose Depp) and Colleen M. (Harley Quinn Smith)—spend their time working at a convenience store and going to a strip mall yoga instructor (Justin Long), all the while rarely looking up from their phones. To say there is a plot to Yoga Hosers is an overstatement: Mostly, random things just happen to occur in the vicinity of the Colleens. Two teenage boys (Austin Butler and Tyler Posey) who come to the convenience store to hang out with the Colleens turn out to be Satan worshippers, planning to kill the girls to take their virgin souls. Then: Enter tiny sausage Nazis—known as Bratzis—who rectally enter the boys, killing them. Subsequently, Yoga Hosers becomes a film about the Colleens taking out these tiny bratwurst baddies, which then becomes a film about an underground plot care of the Canadian Nazi party.
Unsurprisingly, the film’s cameo-laden first half is only that: It serves no enjoyable purpose besides providing context-less, heavy-handed exposition. For example, the Colleens’ teacher Ms. Maurice (Vanessa Paradis) introduces a flashback for Canada’s version of Hitler, played by Haley Joel Osment. Each new character sets up one slight detail before passing the film to the next nearby celebrity.
Surprisingly, the one celebrity appearance that actually works is that of Johnny Depp, reprising his role as detective Guy Lapointe. In Tusk, Lapointe completely derailed a film that was already well on its way to going off the tracks. But Lapointe makes far more sense in the context of Yoga Hosers, and his frustrations with the Colleens proves some of Yoga Hosers’ only redeemable moments.
Still, no two plots ever tie together in any meaningful way. Do the Satanists and the arrival of the Bratzis have any sort of connection? Is there a reason Canadian Nazi Andronicus Arcane (Ralph Garman) does Robert De Niro, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Adam West impressions, besides the fact that Garman can do these impressions? No and no. In Yoga Hosers, Smith engages in the most self-indulged, restraint-free and scattershot mentality he can muster.
Considering that Smith claims that he made this film for teen girls, not for one moment does Yoga Hosers feel like anything other than a mid-40s writer/director shaking his fist at a younger phone-desperate generation, making inside jokes for the adults in the audience and lambasting the critics that have wronged him in the past.
I often cite Clerks as one of my favorite films, as it introduced me to the world of independent cinema. I have gotten lost in New Jersey, trying to find the Quick Stop. I have stood for hours during one of Smith’s Q&As to ask him a question. I once accidentally tore the shirt I was wearing out of excitement when I watched the Clerks II trailer for the first time.
I’m saying this because, despite how much Smith hates critics, I also believe he probably reads every review. No deep-seeded hate can stand that long without fuel for the fire. I write this review as a critic and as a fan and it disappoints me to hate a film from a director I used to love. I miss the old Kevin Smith, the writer and director who, for better or for worse, leaves a big part of himself within each of his films. Heart went into them, even when they featured donkey shows and dick jokes.
As a fan more than a critic, what do I want from Smith now? I want a story that doesn’t feel like a dare. I want the directorial flourishes that Smith has learned in his over 20 years as a filmmaker to be used in a story that has true meaning. I want Smith to direct someone else’s work. I want Smith to not be able to do whatever he wants. He’s the writer, director, producer, editor and an actor in Yoga Hosers, and I want him to stop wearing so many hats. Because these recent films feel empty. They no longer come from a personal place, but from a purely antagonistic one. I no longer want to see how far he can go.
Starring: Lily-Rose Depp, Harley Quinn Smith, Johnny Depp, Justin Long, Tony Hale, Ralph Garman
Release Date: September 2, 2016
Ross Bonaime is a D.C.-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can find more of his writing at here and follow him on Twitter.