Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Exploit Stupidity: Yoga Hosers Is Awful.

The Good: Production design, Competent supporting performances
The Bad: Terrible characters, Astonishingly horrible plot, Most of the special effects, Lackluster acting, Exploitative quality. Most of the film is not funny at all.
The Basics: Kevin Smith's Yoga Hosers clogs the cinematic marketplace with garbage based on name recognition instead of anything approaching quality.

It used to be, as a cinephile, that when there was a new film written and directed by Kevin Smith, it was an event. Smith had a very interesting (as it turns out now, early) career arc as a darling of indie cinema and he hit a creative peak with Dogma (reviewed here!). But, when film distributors wanted to make more than ten million dollars at the box office for an opening weekend and Smith went commercial with Cop Out (reviewed here!) (it's funny how few people ever consider Mallrats a sell-out, as it was just a Kevin Smith film with an actual budget!), Smith quickly eroded his street cred. By the time he switched his storytelling focus with Red State (reviewed here!), he could barely open a film in wide release cinematically and he pretty much milked to death the cottage industry surrounding his name recognition (i.e. public appearances and DVDs of his public appearances talking about his past works). Around the time Red State was released, Kevin Smith publicly talked about how he was pretty much done with writing and directing - he announced that he had a "hockey movie" and Clerks III he wanted to do and then he was hanging up his spurs. His plans changed, apparently, and Tusk, various episodes of The Flash and Yoga Hosers were the result.

Yoga Hosers is a Kevin Smith film - written and directed - that serves as a vehicle for young actresses Lily-Rose Depp and Harley Quinn Smith (Kevin Smith's daughter) to break out on their own . . . while still surrounded by the famous actors, directors, and other creative types who make the viewer care at all about giving these young actors a chance to dazzle us. Unfortunately for everyone involved - and those who bother to view Yoga Hosers - there is nothing dazzling about Yoga Hosers. Instead, Yoga Hosers implicitly makes the potent argument that Kevin Smith has already given us the best he had . . . and he has nothing significant left to give.

Colleen Collette and Colleen McKenzie work at the Eh-2-Zed convenience store in Canada, when they are not so busy on their phones taking pictures with Instacan 2.0 and rocking out in the store's back room. They are excited when one night seniors from their high school, Hunter Calloway and Gordon Greenleaf, visit the Eh-2-Zed and invite them to a grade 12 party. Colleen McKenzie is allowed to go to the party if she takes her mother's switchblade, The Moyle, with her for protection. Colleen Collette wants to go to the party, but the day of, her father's girlfriend Tabitha decides to take off from work, with Bob, forcing the Colleens to work that night.

In the days between, the Colleens attend Terry Fox Preparatory school where they learn of the Canadian Nazis, led by Andronicus Arcane. After briefly losing their cameraphones and meeting the ridiculous author Guy Lapointe, the Colleens go to work the night of the "grade 12 party." When Hunter calls McKenzie, the Colleens invite the seniors to the Eh-2-Zed to party and are surprised when the guys take them up on the offer and only the pair arrive at the convenience store. They are quickly put in mortal peril when it turns out the boys are Canadian satanists who want the Colleens for virgin sacrifices and then the store is besieged by a small army of sentient Nazi bratwursts who want to kill them.

Yes, Kevin Smith's latest magnum opus centers around fifteen (and a half) year-old girls fighting off Bratzis in between reminding viewers just how unpleasant and superficial teenage girls and their cameraphones can be.

Immediately, I had high hopes for Yoga Hosers in that five production companies were credited at the beginning with working together to produce the film and my thought was "even Kevin Smith couldn't bamboozle five companies to throw money at absolute shit" and there are a couple of funny lines in the film right up front. I was wrong. Kevin Smith must be the world's most convincing huckster in his spare time to have gotten so many people to fund this absolute piece of shit (and how is it that Terry Gilliam still cannot get the funding together for The Man Who Killed Don Quixote?!).

What Smith gets right in Yoga Hosers is the production design and the casting. Fans of Kevin Smith's View Askew productions will see a lot in Yoga Hosers that creates a similar sense of reality. Yoga Hosers is packed with visual gags - the cereal boxes and product designs for products on shelves at the Eh-2-Zed and similar iconography at The Gimli Slider, etc - that make the film feel like a Kevin Smith film. The supporting cast of Yoga Hosers is well-cast, though the film feels like a series of obscure cameos before the plot actually bothers to hit its stride and start going anywhere.

But therein the fun ends.

Yoga Hosers is populated by unlikable characters who are virtually impossible to empathize with. Smith makes a smart statement implicitly through the beginning of the film, that the current generation of young people is self-absorbed and caught on their phones rather than truly ever interacting. But, Smith undermines his own point by underlining it and making it explicit with a tirade from the physical education teacher, Ms. Wicklund. In a similar fashion, the Colleens are learning yoga from an incompetent poseur, Yogi Bayer, which is delightfully satirical until the Colleens mouth off to Ms. Wicklund about the yoga she is trying to teach in school. But unlike something like Clerks II (reviewed here!) where the protagonists transition out of their stagnating lives to make fundamental changes, Yoga Hosers simply glorifies the stupidity of the protagonists and invites the antagonists to buy into their ridiculousness. The Canadian Nazis want nothing more than to get their photo into the same stupid tabloid the Colleens love (does the Instagram/Facebook generation even know what magazines are?!) and the schlock horror of the Bratzis comes far too late in the film to be even remotely interesting.

And there is an exploitative quality to Yoga Hosers. Right after the 2016 Presidential election, Harley Quinn Smith went out protesting and Kevin Smith wrote a beautiful disclaimer when he shared photographs of her protesting via social media. Smith wanted to remind people who were going to react to the photos he posted that his daughter is a seventeen year-old minor and he was sharing the pictures because he was proud of her activism. When I read that, I applauded it; the last thing a seventeen year-old needs is death threats or to be exploited/commented upon for how she looks. Kevin Smith had the right idea with trying to remind his fans that his daughter is a minor who does not deserve to be exploited or be subjected to vicious comments.

But, it does not take long into Yoga Hosers to notice that Harley Quinn Smith is being exploited in a way that Lily-Rose Depp is not. Harley Quinn Smith is outfitted in short skirts and midriff baring costumes for the bulk of Yoga Hosers. And Harley Quinn Smith is outfitted in the low-cut shirts that showcase her breasts. Outside a single shot where Lily-Rose Depp is laying on her back after a battle and her shirt rides up to expose her stomach and one mid-yoga strech shot that is hard to see as anything but an ass-shot of a girl in tight yoga pants, Depp is fully covered the entirety of Yoga Hosers. Smith is, noticeably, not. For girls who share everything, the contrast between Depp's yoga stretch pants (black) and Smith's short shorts (white) is painfully obvious and more disturbing than Kevin Smith attempting to elicit humor by moving around the moles on Guy Lapointe's face (didn't a Rob Schneider flick do that already?!) between shots. For someone who works to protect his daughter in the one context, Kevin Smith seems very willing to exploit his daughter in the other.

And therein lays the problem with Yoga Hosers on the acting front. Harley Quinn Smith is not given any big opportunities to showcase any performance talents in Yoga Hosers. Kevin Smith is adept at presenting (in script and on screen) big, deep, compelling human moments - Alan Rickman's Metatron talking to Bethany about having to be the voice of god to talk to the confused, hurt, child Jesus in Dogma perfectly illustrates that! - and Yoga Hosers is noticeably lacking in any such depth. As a result, Harley Quinn Smith and Lily-Rose Depp pal around playing exactly what they are; teenage girls doing stupid teenage girl shit. There is little real acting involved and whatever differences between the performers and their characters is not substantive or interesting in a way that allows either to plumb any sort of acting depth.

The visual effects in Yoga Hosers are pretty horrible; the Bratzis are not integrated into the main photography well (and the physics of some of their movements are obviously off) and the explosions are supposed to be comical, but they look cheesy (not even campy). On the visual effects front, Kevin Smith aspires to get to Sharknado quality CG effects. The golem looks awesome and gross, but by the time it comes into play, most viewers will already have tapped out.

Yoga Hosers is the second in a new trilogy of Kevin Smith films and viewers can only hope that his Canadian horror trilogy remains only three films (the View Askew films began as a New Jersey trilogy, but expanded beyond the three movies!) before Kevin Smith either calls it quits or creates a sequel to Dogma that rises to the level of greatness Smith has been shown to be capable of. But for those expecting anything of that quality of Yoga Hosers are only setting themselves up for disappointment.

For other works with Natasha Lyonne, please visit my reviews of:
Orange Is The New Black - Season 4
Orange Is The New Black - Season 3
Orange Is The New Black - Season 2
Orange Is The New Black - Season 1
Blade: Trinity
But I'm A Cheerleader


For other movie reviews, please check out my Film Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2016 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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