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Sundance 2016: "Yoga Hosers"

Writer/director/podcaster Kevin Smith reaches peak-Adam Sandler mode with "Yoga Hosers," an infamous status earned by those who deny the helpfulness of fruitful criticism while feeding off their own posse and brand, in turn delivering straight-up garbage. As Smith tells it, the writer/director was so enamored with the brief performances of Harley Quinn Smith (his daughter) and Johnny Depp's daughter Lily-Rose Melody Depp in his human-walrus horror movie “Tusk” that he wanted to write a separate script for them. I hope he gets around to doing that. 

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For now, “Yoga Hosers” is a pastiche of terrible Canadian accent jokes and an aggressive indifference to pacing. It doesn’t tell a story so much as recount a course of events that finds the 15-year-old girls working at a convenience store called Eh-2-Zed, doing yoga, texting on their phones, singing rap rock, and then fighting Nazi sausages (more on that last part in a bit). Though they are separate human beings, Smith gives them the same name (Colleen), always dresses them similarly, and constantly bonds them in medium shots. In Smith’s world, if you have two young women at the center of a movie they should be the same, with neither having any personality. When he created a duo out of Jay and Silent Bob, he at least differentiated them by having one of them not speak. 

While at school, the Colleens learn about Canadian Nazis, with a lesson visualized in a black-and-white reenactment featuring Haley Joel Osment in a brief part. It’s but one of the many desperately stretched-out passages of nothing dialogue that ultimately and utterly destroy Smith’s pacing until the Nazi sausages put the film on some rickety narrative course. The experience of “Yoga Hosers” is as baffling as it is wrenching, with Smith’s laziness for focus deflating its energy by the time of its two major moments. When the movie reaches playtime, Smith’s jerking around leaves no adrenaline for fight scenes presented with "Scott Pilgrim vs. The World"-style hyperactivity, and in the finale some Adam West-era “Batman” onomatopoeia. 

As editor, Smith puts Harley and Lily at the center of the film to disastrous results, creating an incestuous overtone that one hopes, at the very least, plays like an in-joke in the Smith household. The premise of watching the two do yoga is a horror of the male gaze, especially when its shots center on their bending bodies from in front and sometimes—yick—from behind. (Why even make them do yoga at all? Is the script's oft-repeated term "yoga hosers" that precious?) Perhaps this is intentional: in comparison, a sweetly-posited scene in which Depp’s Colleen sings her father’s favorite love ballad to prevent him from having sex with his girlfriend in the next room doesn’t seem like the creepiest aspect. Oh, and H. Smith’s Colleen thinks the dad character (Tony Hale) is hot, so take that as you will. Self-aware or not, "Yoga Hosers" becomes more about Smith than it does the Colleens, or the experience of any teenage girl. 

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Without a story to give them or clever scenarios to put them in, he uses the Colleens to patch things together, to present a sensation of fun that never once exists naturally in the script. They sing and sway in extended music sequences, and are greatly amused by the various clowns Smith puts them in front of, like Justin Long’s yoga guru named Yogi Bayer (a terrible pun Smith returns to again and again) or Johnny Depp’s Guy Lapointe (the latter returning for much more scenes and even less comedy compared to “Tusk.”) In one of Smith’s tackiest moves, more than a couple times he punctuates what he feels should be considered a joke with a shot of them laughing. 

Somehow, wading through references to geek culture and himself and the creation of evil, “Yoga Hosers” leads to that army of Nazi sausages called Bratzis (voices provided by Smith) who attack young men in the local area, and live underneath Eh-2-Zed. This, of course, leads to a Nazi sausage master's maniacal plan about killing art critics and what he calls "haters," continuing Smith’s pointless crusade against an institution that will last longer than his best movies: critical thinking. To be fair, there is a bit of satire to it. Smith is obviously paralleling himself as the re-awoken, cryogenically-frozen Canadian Nazi who once stopped making art because it sucked. Unfortunately, this takes us back to the start of a conversation Smith is only having with himself, on his own terms. Outside of his universe, these expressions come with the clarity of a temper tantrum, from someone making some very, very, very bad art. 

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