Some of you may not believe this, but most film critics would prefer not to write negative reviews. We’re film fans first and foremost, and that means we’d love nothing more than for every movie we see to be good or, better yet, great. It’s true that critical slams are often easier to write, but I don’t ever walk into a screening hoping the film sucks for any reason – let alone to make my job a little bit easier.
I’m equally certain that, until now at least, Kevin Smith has never made a film where the end goal was anything less then doing the best job that he could at the time. Sure Cop Out is loaded with compromise, and Red State is a misstep into a genre he doesn’t fully understand, and even Tusk – a misfire by any standard – is a well-made bad film. Smith’s latest feature though, his 12th, has no silver lining to highlight and no outside issue to take the blame.
Yoga Hosers is an actively terrible, no longer gives a damn, he’s-forgotten-how-to-wipe-his-ass-and-is-just-flinging-shit-at-the-screen kind of movie.
Colleen M. (Harley Quinn Smith, Kevin Smith’s daughter) and Colleen C. (Lily-Rose Depp, Johnny Depp’s daughter) are teenagers, best friends, and co-workers at the Eh-2-Zed convenience store where they divide their time between serving customers with sarcastic attitude and closing temporarily so they can jam in the back room as two-thirds of a three-person band. (Adam Brody cameos as their 35-year-old, tattoo-covered drummer, and his brief appearances earn roughly 65% of the film’s limited chuckles.) The pair banter and take private yoga lessons from a disgruntled instructor (Justin Long, who earns the other 35%), and their biggest issue in life is having their cell phones confiscated during gym class.
So far so good, but this teenage girl slant on Smith’s own Clerks is quickly smothered by a plot (such as it is) involving an undead Canadian Nazi and his clone army of sausage soldiers. Smith himself plays the 8" tall Bratzis – their habit of entering people through the anus becomes somewhat troubling when one targets Smith’s own daughter – whose presence here is just one of many nonsensical detours including satanic cult members, ‘80-centric celebrity impersonations, and the same three verbal jokes (“Eh,” “aboot,” and “That’s so basic”) repeated ad nauseum. Smith’s also so proud of his Canadian Lucky Charms knock-off cereal, Pucky Charms, that the box is visible in almost every scene.
Several Tusk veterans return in different roles, but outside of the two convenience store clerks the only repeat character is everyone’s favorite porch conversationalist, Guy Lapointe (Johnny Depp). His presence here is just as indulgent, unnecessary, and stretched out, and it’s yet one more thing that feels like filler in the 88 minute film. Story points are tossed in and shat out periodically, but it’s clear that Smith cared not one bit about making a good movie here. Lazy writing, cheap effects, and tired gags pervade the film, and it’s almost as if he’s making a preemptive strike with its awfulness – “Oh you didn’t like my movie? Well I didn’t make it for you! I made it for myself!” Even die hard fans will be hard-pressed to defend it and will most likely fall back on familiar chestnuts about it being intentionally silly and not for stuffy film critics.
The two girls share a noticeable chemistry, and while it’s obvious that neither of them are professional actors it’s difficult to imagine more experienced performers faring much better here. Neither of the characters see anything resembling an arc, all of their repetitive jokes fall flat, and brief opening tease aside neither of them make a compelling case for being the leads. Both will continue to get roles – and I expect both will outgrow the need for nepotism too – but where their previous appearance together was a brief and amusing cameo the shtick fares considerably less well stretched to feature length. Young Smith and Depp most assuredly had fun making the film, but I wouldn’t be surprised if in a few years the duo took issue with their fathers for not advising them against this particular career choice.
Kevin Smith won’t care what a critic has to say about his film of course – “He’s not talking about killing real people,” says a character here, “he’s talking about killing critics.” – and I’d be the last person to suggest he should have to. As a fan though, as someone who misses the wit and humanity of films like Dogma and Chasing Amy, as someone who even loved Clerks II, I wish he’d head into production on his next film the same way I head into the theater – hoping for something great.
Related Topics: Sundance