My Problems With: Yoga Hosers, and the Failings of a Beloved Director

Yoga Hosers is the second in Kevin Smith’s…Canada Trilogy. It stars his daughter Harley Quinn Smith and her friend, and Johnny Depp’s daughter, Lily-Rose Depp. This was spin-off featuring the girl’s characters from Smith’s body horror-comedy Tusk, including Johnny Depp himself as Guy LaPointe. Smith and Depp made a movie for their daughters to star in. Even for apologists of Smith’s later work, which I was not one of them, this was a low point. It’s one of the most painful experience I’ve ever had to sit through. Partially because it’s just sad to see a man who’s work I admired in the past just fall so badly.

I hazard a guess that most movie nerds, especially if they’re guys, go through a Kevin Smith phase. I was not immune to this-I used to adore his work. It’s hard not to see what so many people saw in him. His stuff is hilarious, both razor sharp quotable humour but also low brow jokes that work and feel refreshing. He comes across both in his filmmaking and his live appearances as a very humble guy. His stuff was always shot very simply with a can-do attitude, his first film was in black and white because it was cheaper. While I never found him to be the best director, in terms of how he used cinematic language to convey a story, I did think he was a talented writer. His movies are really rewatchable, with certain details in the dialogue you may have missed, and his cast tend to be really endearing and entertaining to watch.

Sadly, our boy Kevin has had a fall from grace. It’s a combination of a lot of things; his removal of the safety net of his Askewniverse not really working out in his favour, his selling of himself as a brand through his podcasts and public appearances (I’ve been to one of them-he’s very entertaining live). But what really killed it was the critical reaction to Cop Out, and his subsequent refusal to screen his movies to critics and try to fund his movies independently. He decided to make his movies “for the fans”, and hoo boy, if his direction was ropey before, wait until he didn’t even have to impress people!

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Yoga Hosers is the inevitable result of this. While he didn’t have an amazing track record before this, this brought out the absolute worst of Kevin Smith. Even the way the actors are blocked feels unnatural. There are moments where our main duo are the only ones onscreen, and they just look like they have no fucking clue what they’re doing. They’re swinging their arms and doing awkward, stiff but still animated gestures. I don’t put this down to them-this is all unmotivated direction. Even Stan the Man Lee, as much as it hurts me to say this, feels a bit stiff and uncomfortable. It doesn’t help that he has some of the most terrible dialogue he’s ever been given, but it’s amazing you took one of the most charismatic men on the planet and made him feel strangely awkward. We all miss you, buddy.

Speaking of, damn, his nepotism is on full force here! I say this more tongue-in-cheek; people have criticised Smith’s willingness to cast his family and friends all the time, and it’s not something that really bothered me. But in a movie starring his daughter, it’s hard not to notice. His wife, who seems like a lovely woman but cannot act, is back to play her daughter’s character’s mother. She’s refined mercifully to one scene. Sad to say the same for Maestro Jason “Jay” Mewes, who pops up for even less time. Most of the screentime is devoted to his comedian buddies, which is a trick I remember being put to great effect to Clerks 2.

And this movie really is trying to emulate Clerks when it’s not doing the weird Bratzi stuff. Our leads do trivial stuff, character shows up to scene to interact with them, funny jokes, next scene. But this worked better for Clerks…well, partially because the plot with the miniature Nazi clones made of German stereotypes wasn’t there (seriously, if it’s possible to be racist against Canadians and Germans, this fucking thing is both). But also the script is tighter, the jokes flow better and the actors were more comfortable with their material. And Clerks wasn’t exactly Smith’s A-game material; part of the charm of it was it’s ‘do it yourself’ aesthetic. The difference is in the sense of authenticity; it  felt really real. Yoga Hosers does not, and it just lacks a lot of the humanity that Smith put into his nerd bro-y juvenile slapstick aesthetic.

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And that’s probably the biggest culprit here; the comedy. You could deal with the terrible Canadian Nazi plot, how stiff and uncomfortable the acting and blocking is, how overly reminiscent of Smith’s older work it is (a character even says “I’m not even supposed to be here today” if you didn’t get it), if the movie was actually funny. And it isn’t. The Canada riffs are just weird and offensive, probably the apex of them was the cereal redesigned as “CheriEHS’ and “PUCKY Charms”. Are ya laughing, yet?! The gross out stuff is even lazy, to the point where the girls just put signs involving bathroom emergencies to close up the store. Also, the scene with Smith’s wife where the whole joke boils down to ‘menstruation is gross’. The references to social media addiction and modern slang feels like, well, a man in his late 40s writing dialogue for teenage girls. None of this works, none of the punchlines land, and it’s just a far cry from how his work used to play out. This is not the Kevin Smith who made Clerks anymore. Hell, it’s not even the Kevin Smith who made goddamn Jersey Girl!

I don’t think the leads are at fault for this movie failing. Hell, I don’t even think it’s bad because Smith wanted to work with his daughter. He could have easily gotten something to work out of this. This was just a man clearly at the end of his ropes and strung out as a creator, in a comfortable position where he was too safe to fail in his mind. All of this lead to the movie utterly blowing up in his face. His safety net of the Askewniverse may have been long gone, but now even the safety net of just being Kevin Smith wasn’t enough.

Last year, Smith survived a massive heart attack, but thankfully survived. It’s looking like this has resulted in him teaming up with his good friend Jason Mewes for one more swing at their beloved characters in Jay and Silent Bob Reboot. As much as I’ve lambasted the guy’s work here, I still hold out hope we’ll get something decent from him again. I do really like the dude from what I know of him; he seems like a pretty cool and affable man. With this latest film, perhaps returning to the well can make him reach that levels of comedy and likeablility that was a cinch for him in the 90s.

And hey. At least this means Moose Jaws may not be a thing.

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