Yoga Hosers (Movie Review)

Yoga Hosers (Movie Review)
7 10

PLOT: 15-year-old convenience store clerks Colleen Collette and Colleen McKenzie think they're in for the best time of their lives when two older boys invite them to a party, but end up enduring the most basic weekend ever when the store they work in turns out to be the epicenter of a Nazi plot seventy years in the making.

REVIEW: I loved the first installment of Kevin Smith's True North Trilogy, 2014's delightfully (to me) strange TUSK. I listened to the episode of SModcast where the idea was born when it first hit the internet, I voted #WalrusYes on Twitter to encourage Smith to make the film, and the final product was beyond my expectations. That movie's particular brand of weirdness hits the spot for me, it puts a grin on my face for the duration and at times has me laughing maniacally. But I can understand when people don't like it, and even wondered if it could work for viewers who weren't in on the joke and hadn't heard the podcast prior to watching the movie. I'm always gladdened when I hear that it has won over a viewer who wasn't aware of its podcast roots.

Liking or disliking TUSK is not a guarantee that you'll have the same reaction to the second True North film, YOGA HOSERS, a spin-off focusing on the two teenage clerks from the Canadian convenience store Eh-2-Zed, Colleen Collette (Lily-Rose Depp) and Colleen McKenzie (Harley Quinn Smith). This movie is a whole different brand of weird, one which skews younger - the target demographic is females in the age range of the teenage main characters, the idea being that the movie could provide young girls with a pair of butt-kicking heroines they could more directly relate to in a cinema landscape overwhelmingly populated by heroes whose aliases end in "man". (Batman, Superman, Spider-Man, Iron Man, you get the picture.)

Smith was clearly dedicated to capturing a kid-friendly tone. Some stray "shit"s and the refrain of "Goddamn yoga hosers" aside, most of this film is about as edgy as a Disney Channel special. The tone is poppy and light as the film introduces the Colleens and delves into their lives. Smartphones clutched tightly, they endure their soul-sucking, social life-killing job at the convenience store and exasperating interactions with parents and teachers. They are overjoyed at being invited to a party by a pair of older boys, they shirk work duties to practice with their band Glamthrax (the girls are joined by Adam Brody as a drummer), they're the top students of an oddball strip mall yoga teacher called Yogi Bayer (Justin Long).

Viewers expecting something along the lines of TUSK may be put off when they find themselves watching a comedy starring young girls that's for young girls, but there is something else going on, a dark streak that runs through some scenes - a man gets attacked in a park by an unseen assailant, there's mention of body parts being found strewn around the area. It's interesting that Adam Brody shows up in this film as a musician, because he was also a musician in JENNIFER'S BODY and YOGA HOSERS does briefly appear to be going in a direction reminiscent of that film... But then it takes a much different, more unique path.

YOGA HOSERS has been described as "CLUELESS meets GREMLINS", a description that was changed to "CLUELESS meets GHOULIES" when Smith decided that referencing GREMLINS was reaching too far. Like both GREMLINS and GHOULIES, this film does feature tiny terrors, and the creatures lurking around the Eh-2-Zed are some of the most absurd creations to ever hit the screen. They're called Bratzis, and they're foot tall Canadian Nazis made of sentient bratwurst who have concentrated sauerkraut for blood and kill people by crawling up their asses and out their mouths. Now, some may look at a sentence like that and take it as a negative, but they're not looking for what I'm looking for in a movie. For me, the concept of Bratzis ranks right up there with "a guy turns another guy into a walrus" as an "I never knew how badly I needed to see this" brilliantly dumb idea.

As the girls find out in history class, there really were Nazis in Canada back in the day, with a journalist named Adrien Arcand (played here by Haley Joel Osment) calling himself the Canadian Fuhrer and starting his own fascist political party. What the history books won't tell you, however, is that Arcand was in league with a man named Andronicus Arcane (Ralph Garman), who was creating an army of Nazis out of sausage. Arcane has now risen from his cryogenic chamber hidden in a secret bunker beneath the Eh-2-Zed, his stunted Bratzis at his side and murder on his mind.

The Colleens set out to thwart Arcane's nefarious schemes, using their yoga positions as fighting moves and receiving some help from Quebecois manhunter Guy Lapointe - Lily-Rose's father Johnny Depp returning as his TUSK character. Lapointe had the tendency to bog the pace of TUSK down a bit, but he doesn't have that effect on YOGA HOSERS. The character has a bit more pep to him this time around, as well as a mole on his face that randomly switches positions, disappears, and multiplies from shot to shot.

YOGA HOSERS is an astoundingly strange movie that doesn't even attempt to seem like it's set in our reality. As the characters say at one point, "This isn't the real world, this is Canada." A Canada that exists only in Kevin Smith's imagination. The film functions on a cartoon logic, nothing truly makes sense. It's somewhat jarring how ridiculous it is, and might be less so if this actually were animated. If it were, the viewer would probably be asking less questions about how things work. If you find yourself wondering why there are guitars on the soundtrack during a band performance where no one is holding a guitar or how the plumbing could possibly function in a toilet that slides over to reveal a secret passageway, you either have to accept the fact that you're watching a cartoon, or write the whole affair off as insufferably stupid.

This is a kids' comedy through and through, the horror aspects are never truly horrific and the villains are never threatening. Still, there is a reverence for horror movies evident, particularly in the score by Christopher Drake, which has clear nods to THE SHINING and John Carpenter synth music in general and HALLOWEEN in particular. Another reference comes in a line of dialogue: the first thing Guy Lapointe says when meeting the Colleens is "Children shouldn't play with dead things." When listing his YOGA HOSERS influences, Smith mentions several Charles Band productions, GHOULIES being one of them, and another being PUPPET MASTER. While the army of Bratzis (which Smith had to step in to play himself after his frequent collaborator Jason Mewes couldn't handle wearing the prosthetics due to claustrophobia) were brought to the screen through digital trickery, they do at times move with a sort of unnatural motion that made me think of the awesome stop motion animation that the early PUPPET MASTER films would mix in with the puppetry of their tiny terrors. 

YOGA HOSERS is a bizarre melting pot of references and influences, including the aforementioned horror films, John Hughes movies, CLERKS, Smith's childhood obsession with Bob and Doug McKenzie, the 1966 Batman TV series, and the real lifelong friendship of its two stars. Sure, this is nepotism, a filmmaker built a movie around his daughter and her best friend, but the girls took this opportunity and ran with it, capably carrying the film on their shoulders and proving themselves to be naturals. They show true promise, which I think other filmmakers will pick up on as well. In fact, Lily-Rose is already being cast in films that Kevin Smith and Johnny Depp have nothing to do with, and I believe the same will be happening for Harley Quinn. They both did very well here.

Smith's podcast network also played a large role in the crafting of this story, and as with TUSK I'm left wondering how this movie would work for someone who doesn't listen to the podcasts. When Ralph Garman shows up and starts delivering his monologue in the voices of different actors his pop culture-consuming character has learned to imitate (Al Pacino, Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Adam West, Paul Lynde), regular listeners to the Hollywood Babble-On podcast will get it immediately, while someone who hasn't heard the show will likely be baffled. This is in-joke city.

The appeal of YOGA HOSERS is admittedly quite limited. I'm not even sure how much it will connect with its target demographic, as young girls may like and relate to the Collens, but how will they react to the Bratzis? The audience for this is small, but I'm in it, as this blend of comedy, craziness, and goofball charm provided me with 90 minutes of entertainment of a sort that no other movie out there can offer. I fully support Smith's new approach of grasping onto insanity, saying "Why not?", and pushing whimsy all the way to the screen, and while this may not have had the emotional resonance with me as some of his earlier works have had, I am left with an eagerness to watch the movie again as soon as possible.

Extra Tidbit: Kevin Smith is currently touring with YOGA HOSERS. Check YogaHosers.com for dates and venues. Invincible Pictures will be releasing the film into theatres on September 2nd, with a limited sneak peek on August 30th.



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