'Yoga Hosers' Is An Absurd Live-Action Cartoon Meets 90's Teen Movie [Sundance Review]

Yoga Hosers feels like a cross between an absurd live-action cartoon created by a stoner and a '90s-style teenage comedy. It's so strange, and unlike anything Kevin Smith has directed before. I'm honestly not sure if Yoga Hosers was terrible or if I am just not the target demographic for this story.

Let me begin by explaining my history with the filmmaker: Kevin Smith was part of the reason I discovered independent film and I don't think I ever would have ended up at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival or created /Film without having discovered Clerks. I'm not one of those film bloggers that turned on Smith after he went on the attack on film criticism years ago — I'm a fan, maybe not as big of a fan as I used to be, but I'm still a fan.

I've enjoyed most of his films (Cop Out aside), and I even found Red State exciting as I was happy to see Smith branch out of his comfort zone and do something different. I was very excited to see Yoga Hosers as it seemed like a return to comedy and had the promise of being a female, Canadian Clerks. For whatever reason, I have not yet seen Tusk, so maybe I didn't know what I was getting into in regards to Johnny Depp's make-up-covered character Guy Lapointe.

The film stars Smith's daughter Harley Quinn Smith alongside Johnny Depp's daughter Lily-Rose Melody Depp as two teenage store clerks who use their yoga skills to fend off foot-tall Canadian Nazis made of sentient Bratwurst (played by Kevin Smith, of course). If the plot sounds ridiculous, then wait until you see the movie.

Yoga Hosers is cute and silly with a few fun moments. Some of the better scenes recall Smith's very short-lived Clerks: The Animated Series (which I loved), but much of the story feels like just a bunch of crazy ideas someone had while they were baked. Smith uses cheap gags including some surprise cameos from unexpected geek celebrities and of course references and lines from his previous films.

The film joyfully lampoons the way Canadians pronounce certain words, but after a couple times the joke loses its humor. Any time a new character appears on screen, we are presented with an "Insta Cam" profile of the character, which appears to be compiled from the social media accounts of our millennial protagonists. These introduction cards feel like the remnants of a 1990s teen movie, and they came across as more annoying than funny.

I'm happy that Kevin Smith has found a way to make the films he wants with almost no compromise — this is the dream of independent cinema. I'm just not sure Yoga Hosers is for me, and it feels at times more like a home movie comprised of family members and friends. I know the same complaint could be made of Smith's other films, but it never really bothered me as I found many of Smith's friends to be funny and charismatic.

The two leads in this film have been friends since childhood and have a chemistry that seems real and natural. Harley Quinn Smith often looked unconfident on screen, almost as if she felt she didn't belong there. Johnny Depp (finally credited as himself in this film) seems to be doing his own wacky thing, uninterested in the movie surrounding his character. However, I was surprised by Lily-Rose Melody Depp, who has the makings of a star.

While the special effects make-up effects are good (VFX veteran Robert Kurtzman was involved), the other visual effects felt laughable — like something from a television movie from 15 years ago. But much like everything else in this movie, I'm not sure if that is intentional or not.

Yoga Hosers is what happens when you try to make a movie out of a podcast meme. I'm sure there will be many fans of Smith's work who will love the insane wackiness of this film. And maybe teenagers will get something out of this film that I didn't.

The Sundance premiere was followed by a Q&A with Smith and the cast. It was this epilogue that reminded me of why I still love Kevin Smith. He's still a great and funny storyteller offscreen — as he recounted stories from the making of the movie, he held the entire audience in the palm of his hand. In this arena, he's a real showman who knows how to make you laugh and feel. I just wish he could bring a little more of this back to his films.

/Film Rating: 5 out of 10