YOGA HOSERS (2016)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 28 minutes

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for Crude Humor, Sexual References, Comic Violence, and brief Drug Material

YogaHosers poster

Directed by: Kevin Smith

Written by: Kevin Smith

Starring: Lily-Rose Depp, Harley Quinn Smith, Johnny Depp, Vanessa Paradis, Austin Butler, Tyler Posey, Justin Long, Haley Joel Osment, Genesis Rodriguez, Tony Hale, Natasha Lyonne & Kevin Smith

Kevin Smith’s filmography has recently gone through many odd shifts. Though he gained a loyal fanbase from low-budget comedies like CLERKS and MALLRATS, Smith has entered a horror phase…and this has been a hugely miscalculated move. The best of Smith’s horror efforts is easily RED STATE, a surprisingly strong merging of the Waco siege and the Westboro Baptist Church. 2014’s TUSK was disappointing due to its confused tonal shifts and a plot that seemed to making itself up as it went along. That film featured cameos from Kevin Smith’s daughter and Johnny Depp’s kid as Canadian convenience store clerks. YOGA HOSERS is a semi-sequel to TUSK and serves as a spin-off for that pair of minor characters.

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Colleen Collette (Lily-Rose Depp) and Colleen McKenzie (Harley Quinn Smith) are best friends, bandmates and co-workers at the Eh-2-Zed convenience store. They bury their faces in their cellphones during school and periodically skip out on their shifts to hold band practice in the backroom. After being invited to a senior party held by preppy Hunter Calloway (Austin Butler), the Colleens’ lives begin to look up…until Colleen C’s father (Tony Hale) forces the two BFF’s to take an unexpected work shift. Missing Hunter’s party won’t be the end of the Colleens’ problems though, because Bratzis (Kevin Smith in bratwurst make-up) have risen from the ground. You may be asking: “What’s a Bratzi?” It’s a little Nazi made of bratwurst and the Colleens have to contend with an army of them. Lucky for them, legendary man-hunter Guy Lapointe (Johnny Depp) is on the case.

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YOGA HOSERS’ plot is kind of difficult to summarize, because there isn’t exactly a straightforward storyline. The film is supposedly about two teenage clerks fighting bratwurst creatures that kill people by going up their butts, yet only a third of the film seems interested in that. The rest is dedicated to the Colleens going about their teenage lives and Johnny Depp mugging for the camera. Kevin Smith unapologetically admitted that this film was a vanity project, but it might have been fun (albeit ridiculously stupid) if there was any semblance of a story. Flashy headache-inducing title cards, two cringe-worthy musical numbers, and lame cut-away jokes constantly interrupt the movie’s already wavering momentum.

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Even though it clocks in at a mercifully short 88 minutes, YOGA HOSERS frequently lags in its pacing and feels much longer as a result. There are a few chuckles that keep the film from becoming a total failure, but these are few and far between. One visual joke seems directly lifted from Mel Brooks’ ROBIN HOOD: MEN IN TIGHTS (moles changing around on Johnny Depp’s face), which in turn was actually recycled from the ever-changing hump in YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN. The biggest laugh comes from Haley Joel Osment as Canadian Hitler. The punchline to his single scene is very funny, but that energy vanishes the minute he’s gone. Don’t worry though, because YOGA HOSERS tries to get more wacky laughs by giving us a Nazi villain monologuing through voice impressions of Hollywood actors (ala Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Pacino, etc.). That’s the level we’re at here, folks.

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I can’t judge too harshly on Lily-Rose Depp and Harley Quinn Smith’s performances, because they come off as annoying teenage kids. This was definitely the intention, but it doesn’t automatically turn them into likable ass-kicking heroines. Austin Butler, who resembles Justin Bieber, shows potential in a neat plot twist that showed promise…and is quickly written out by a lazy butt joke. Johnny Depp’s Guy Lapointe was one of the worst things in TUSK, but seems to fit in with the wacky stupidity of YOGA HOSERS. His presence is much more colorful than either of the Colleens anyway. The less said about Kevin Smith in bratwurst make-up, the better. Justin Long is serviceable enough as a pretentious strip mall yoga instructor. However, Smith thinks that cameos are the same thing as comedy…which makes for two incredibly out-of-place moments.

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Truthfully, I think that Kevin Smith knows YOGA HOSERS isn’t a good movie. In the Q&A shown before the Fathom Event screening, Smith stated that the film is a midnight movie made for viewers who aren’t allowed to stay up until midnight. He seems to be writing off this film’s bad quality as it being made for kids. I don’t think that’s quite the case. There may be no F-bombs or nudity in this film, but there’s definitely enough sexual innuendos to earn the PG-13 rating (which isn’t exactly perfect for a “kid’s movie”). Even if YOGA HOSERS was actually intended for little girls, quality kid’s films usually entertain older viewers too. How terrible is YOGA HOSERS? Well, let’s just say that a theater filled with hardcore Kevin Smith fans was dead silent for 90% of the running time and I’ll pretty much be ignoring the rest of Kevin Smith’s new movies until he inevitably makes CLERKS III.

Grade: D-

TUSK (2014)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 42 minutes

MPAA Rating: R for some Disturbing Violence/Gore, Language and Sexual Content

Tusk poster

Directed by: Kevin Smith

Written by: Kevin Smith

Starring: Justin Long, Michael Parks, Genesis Rodriguez, Haley Joel Osment & Johnny Depp

TUSK was created in a wholly unusual way. On SModcast episode 259, Kevin Smith and his co-host were discussing a strange ad that eventually morphed into a story involving a madman and a walrus suit. At the end of the episode, Smith issued a call to arms for his fans and asked them to vote on Twitter through hashtags if he should make a feature based on the story. A majority of his fans answered #WalrusYes and about a year later, TUSK is upon us! How does the film stack up as a whole though? I really loved RED STATE and thought it was Kevin’s best film to date with powerful punch being thrown at certain issues, but also maintained an interesting story. TUSK never bored me and there will be people who absolutely dig this film, but I kind of hated it for many reasons.

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Wallace is an irreverent podcaster making his living on exploiting strange people on his episodes. Arriving at Canada for an interview that quickly goes south, this moustached podcast host finds a weird ad posted in a bathroom. This piece of paper offers a free room and plenty of stories for menial household duties. Wallace takes immediate interest and travels to the middle of nowhere to interview this reclusive old man. Turns out that the poster of the ad has a more sinister agenda in mind and wants to turn Wallace into a walrus. Needless to say that circumstances are dire. Wallace’s friends desperately search for him with the help of a quirky French-Canadian detective.

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There’s probably a really solid film within TUSK, but the main narrative complaint I have is the film sporadically throws flashbacks at the viewer every 10 minutes or so. Some of these have a purpose and others are a complete waste of time. However, it lends to the underling sense that Kevin Smith was making this screenplay up as he went along. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out this was the rough draft of the story, because it needs some fine-tuning. Things might have improved greatly if Smith also showed everything in chronological order. Flashbacks with Wallace (including a forced one in the final minutes) would have worked better if they were in the opening act. Therefore, references to them in the end of the movie would have actual staying power, instead of being almost instantly forgotten in the matter of an hour or so.

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Scenes being placed where they chronologically belong (in the opening act), could have possibly benefitted making the characters likable. Wallace comes off as the biggest asshole in the world, but Kevin Smith attempts to get the viewer to feel a bit of sympathy for him. However, he does this by placing a few random flashbacks (damn the weird order of scenes in this movie and my continued harping on it) right by the moment we’re supposed to feel bad for Wallace’s horrible predicament. It’s a technique that feels overly manipulative and could have been easily corrected. Haley Joel Osment and Genesis Rodriguez aren’t given a whole hell of a lot to do here. Also (if you don’t know about the movie’s worst kept secret cameo then SPOILER), Johnny Depp’s presence was wholly unnecessary and merely amounted to him doing his funny face shtick (ala Jack Sparrow, Mad Hatter, Tonto, etc.). One extended scene between him and Michael Parks was painfully bad. None of the jokes really work in this movie.

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Most of the payoff hinges on the inevitable appearance of the Wallace walrus (seen frequently after about 45 minutes in or so), but the reveal doesn’t satisfy either. I felt the look was too comical and silly, also unlike any of the freaky medical drawings glimpsed early on. The conclusion is stupid enough to work in such a ridiculous story, but Smith botches it in a rushed and frenetic execution. However, not everything about TUSK is awful. Michael Parks (the best actor in RED STATE) is clearly having a blast as the utterly insane Howard Howe. I loved most of his delivery, except for that aforementioned scene with Depp. Also, the setting of the Howard’s isolated house is appropriately creepy and offers decent suspense in his first encounter with Wallace.

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The difficult thing about making an intentionally cheesy or campy film is that if the filmmaker is winking too much at the audience then the joke becomes less funny. TRICK ‘R TREAT and CABIN IN THE WOODS balanced an equal amount of silly humor with a straight-faced delivery, therefore making the story work. TUSK feels like Kevin Smith is making it up on the spot and constantly grinning at the camera. The sporadic flashbacks feel like they were added in on the spot during the writing process of the first draft and putting these in the chronological order would have gotten me to enjoy it far more than I did. TUSK feels sloppy, forced, and unfocused in many areas. There are a few redeeming factors (the setting, a kernel of a really creative story, and Michael Parks going wild), but I left the film disappointed.

Grade: D

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