Coming off the heels of a cross-country road show, Yoga Hosers, writer/director Kevin Smith (Mallrats/Dogma)’s second film in his True North Trilogy, will finally receive a nationwide release. Full of the juvenile slapstick humor Smith built an empire upon, Yoga Hosers is a silly tale of two tweens who get caught up in a murderous plot that interrupts their social plans. Though not Smith’s strongest film to date, Yoga Hosers offers two things none of his others films do: female leads and a kid-friendly story. Fans of Smith’s prior work will have a blast, eagerly awaiting the chance to show Yoga Hosers to their kids, while the average filmgoer will likely pass on what is one of Smith’s more uneven stories. The biggest surprise of Yoga Hosers is that the same man who gave us a topless psychic in Mallrats delivered a film that not only speaks to the empowerment women, but makes it shine.
Returning from their modest appearance in Tusk, the first of the True North Trilogy, Colleen Collette (Lily-Rose Depp) and Colleen McKenzie (Harley Quinn Smith) are still clerks at the Eh-2-Zed where they were first introduced. When they aren’t face-down in their phones or snarling at customers, they are the star pupils of a strip mall yogi (Justin Long). Though they seem like tween slackers, they are more than up to the task of fighting a strange supernatural menace that’s killing people their customers.
Lily-Rose and Harley are perfect as the Colleens. Real-life best friends, their cinematic counterparts channel their natural chemistry making their relationship completely believable on-screen. Their repartee feels natural and each character supports the other beautifully. Designed by Smith to be aspirational to other young girls, the characters of The Colleens are not caricatures, but fully-formed individuals with their own ideas. Through the performance by Lily-Rose and Harley, you get the strong sense that they require no one else to define themselves as individuals. With theaters full of stories about male heroes and the women who support them, the Colleens stand apart. the Colleens take no prisoners; whether in the form of a Phys. Ed Teacher with a grudge against tweens, teenage boys hungry for sophomore girls, or bratwurst Nazis (referred to as Bratzis). In this regard, Smith’s story is to be lauded because most films involving girls, especially girl leads, involve a narrative that diminishes them or causes them to have a petty squabble that they have to move past. Smith throws aside expectations and presents the Colleens as the heroes all the way to the final credits. Not fully wholesome and not completely pure, the Colleens are real girls.
Incidentally, since the Colleens spend the bulk of their time trying not to work at a convenience store, a comparison to Smith’s debut film, Clerks, can’t be helped, prompting one to wonder if Lily-Rose and Harley aren’t just a little bit modeled after Brian O’Halloran’s Dante and Jeff Anderson’s Randal. Harley’s Colleen M. is sweet, though a little naïve, and utters the infamous “I’m not even supposed to be here today!”, while Lily-Rose’s Colleen C. is acerbic, smart, and ready to throw down. This is, however, where comparison, and possible connection, ends.
If tweens aren’t your thing, hardcore Smith fans have plenty of other tidbits to keep them entertained. From the usual cast of misfits – Jason Mewes, Jennifer Schwalbach Smith, Genesis Rodriguez, Haley Joel Osment, Ralph Garman – to a few newbies that will have you shouting at the screen, Yoga Hosers feels, through and through, like a Smith film. His characters are crude, the world seems just a little left of center, and we’re constantly reminded that any job would be great if it weren’t for the customers. That’s what makes this the perfect film for adult Viewaskew fans to introduce to their kids. Though the parents may want to make sure that their kids can handle some light off-screen mutilating first.
Unfortunately, where Yoga Hosers doesn’t seem to work is in the narrative. Where Tusk is a straight-up horror film, Yoga Hosers utilizes a tween comedy narrative structure with a horror underbelly featuring a Nazi scientist creating killer sentient bratwurst resulting in a split-personality feel. On the one hand, it’s a fun, quipy comedy and on the other it’s a murderous PG-13 horror show. Executed differently, Yoga Hosers could be a new Return of the Killer Tomatoes with all its schlock glory, but it doesn’t quite stick the landing with the unveiling of the villain causing the narrative to lose steam. Between a villain who uses pop culture references the Colleens can’t possibly understand and the rational for the murders, it’s hard to find a real narrative purpose for anything that’s happened. Additionally, the villain seems to represent unresolved issues that Smith has with the critics that review his films. Smith’s career has been built upon dick and fart jokes and a ton of heart. His stories, no matter how zany, always come from an honest place. As an artist, he opens himself up to criticism that is often unwarranted and made personal. So when Smith’s Nazi villain is revealed to be angry at critics for the way they spread hate, it plays two ways. One is amusing because it plays into the historical fact of Hitler himself as a rejected artist who turned to politics. The other way is far more uncomfortable as Smith seems to use his villain to purge himself of his rage. A justified rage, sure, but it brings enormous emotional weight to a film that has been, up to that point, light and fun.
There’s a lot that’s wonderful and fun about Yoga Hosers and there’s a lot that just doesn’t fit, resulting in a movie that you want to love for the long haul, but can’t fully commit to. Yoga Hosers is not Smith’s best work, but it is the one that means the most. He’s presented two characters whose narrative identities are their own and who represent a portion of the audience rarely presented as a lead character. The Colleens, while not perfect, are kick-ass girls that can inspire other young girls to be more than just arm candy; you can be into music, do yoga, and still swing a mean hockey stick.
Final Score: 3.5 out of 5.