Yoga Hosers is not the complete abortion of a film it’s reputed to be, but Smith gets in his own way far too often.
Directors like to talk about the first time they picked up a camera because they wanted to make the kind of movie they wanted to see when they were a child. Before a screening of Yoga Hosers, director Kevin Smith reminisced, or perhaps made excuses, that his latest feature is the kind of family film he’d want to see if he were a 12-year old girl. Smith’s heart is in the right place; but Smith he should subscribe to Screenwriting 101: write what you know. The director’s ability to write women has always been limited, and it’s painfully evident in a film whose few bright lights are quickly dimmed by his loves for Canada and poop.
The movie tells the story of two disaffected Canadian teens both named Colleen, played by Kevin Smith’s daughter Harley Quinn and Johnny Depp’s daughter Lily-Rose. The movie has possibilities that are completely incongruous to its third act descent into Nazi sausage jokes. Smith’s line readings emulate her father’s typical male protagonists, while Depp simply acts blasé, yet both girls are remarkably charming when they’re allowed to give performances unfettered by their famous fathers.
Best friends since kindergarten, Smith and Depp’s relationship is evident and best conveyed on their own, commenting about life and family. A moment between Smith and her mother, played by Kevin Smith’s wife Jennifer Schwalbach, is one of the film’s comedic high points as Kevin Smith captures parental dynamics and his daughter’s need to grow up and proclaim her sexuality.
Yoga Hosers is the second in Smith’s “True North” trilogy; the final film, a Canadian-set Jaws spoof called Moose Jaws, is still in development. The director’s love for Canada began in 2014 with Tusk, an ugly tale of man meets walrus. Despite that movie’s poor box office performance, Smith continues his cinematic romance with the nation, to diminishing returns. His latest plays like an extended “Saturday Night Live” parody of Canada made by someone who has never lived there, consisting of little more than 88 minutes of people finding any way to end their sentences with “aboot” or “eh.” Smith and his beloved Canada would perhaps be better off if they parted ways immediately.
Smith was once a keen observer of characters, usually working class, finding their identity in that weird stage between adolescence and adulthood. With increasingly rare glimpses of his former candor, that Smith seems long gone. While there is some merit in his need to make a feminist movie, all he seems to know about women is that they have menstrual cycles (as a woman, I admit I did chuckle at his period jokes) and read magazines.
The film doesn’t tap into anything relatable other than old codger tropes showing teens obsessed with Snapchat and Twitter. Smith seems uncomfortable turning his daughter into a fully-fleshed human being, culminating in a pandering third-act subplot involving Nazis and Kevin Smith in a bratwurst costume. Oddly enough, a subplot with Smiths’ daughter and a teenage boy yields far more intrigue because it’s the kind of fable Smith used to focus on. But this was done better in Jennifer’s Body, and Kevin Smith’s reluctance to have his daughter discuss sex quickly renders this a moot point.
Outside of our darling female heroines, the rest of the cast is limited to one impact-making scene. Tapping into ‘80s teen family dynamics, Tony Hale and Natasha Lyonne have the strongest moment and give the film an enjoyable musical interlude. Yet other cast members seem to do no more than fulfill contractual requirements, and Johnny Depp himself continues to bring everything screeching to a halt.
Yoga Hosers is not the complete abortion of a film it’s reputed to be, but Smith gets in his own way far too often. Cast largely with Smith’s friends and family, it feels like a home movie meant for the Smiths and Depps to put on for holiday gatherings so they can gush over how cute their daughters are. If Smith had really made a coming of age movie for 12-year old girls, Yoga Hosers might have been a good movie. But he didn’t, and it isn’t.