Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Kevin Smith's Yoga Hosers

Kevin Smith has been touring the country with his new film Yoga Hosers while gearing up for a wider theatrical release on September 2nd.


Having attended one of the screenings, Cody reports on the shenanigans.

It's a very gratifying thing to be a Kevin Smith fan, because the man does so many road shows and appears at so many events that it's pretty easy to see him live and in person on a fairly regular basis. I have been in his presence several times over the last sixteen years, and am always anxiously waiting for word on when our paths might cross again. It had been a few years since I last saw him in person, and it was feeling like it had been too long. The last of his events that I attended, a special screening of Jay & Silent Bob's Super Groovy Cartoon Movie that was followed by a live recording of an episode of the Jay & Silent Bob Get Old podcast, Kevin wasn't even able to get to. Ming Chen of Comic Book Men stood in for him to do the show with Jason Mewes, and a good time was had anyway. But I was in need of some Kevin.

Luckily, Kevin has decided to take his latest film, Yoga Hosers, out on the road, just like he did with Jay & Silent Bob's Super Groovy Cartoon Movie in 2013 and Red State in 2011, and that tour brought him back to my neck of the woods when he showed the movie at the Studio 35 theatre in Columbus, Ohio on June 12th.

The show kicked off with Kevin doing an intro, and if you know how chatty he is it should come as no surprise that this intro went on a little longer than the five minutes or less you might usually expect at a movie screening. This intro lasted an hour, starting with Kevin sharing a text exchange he had with his daughter that included the nickname Dumbledick. He then delivered a lengthy breakdown on the genesis of his previous film, Tusk, and the making of that, which became the story of how Yoga Hosers came to be, since it is a spin-off from Tusk.

After setting the film up, Kevin made his exit and the movie began. Below is the review I wrote for ArrowintheHead.com.


I loved the first installment of Kevin Smith's True North Trilogy, 2014's delightfully (to me) strange Tusk. I listened to the episode of SModcast where the idea was born when it first hit the internet, I voted #WalrusYes on Twitter to encourage Smith to make the film, and the final product was beyond my expectations. That movie's particular brand of weirdness hits the spot for me, it puts a grin on my face for the duration and at times has me laughing maniacally. But I can understand when people don't like it, and even wondered if it could work for viewers who weren't in on the joke and hadn't heard the podcast prior to watching the movie. I'm always gladdened when I hear that it has won over a viewer who wasn't aware of its podcast roots.

Liking or disliking Tusk is not a guarantee that you'll have the same reaction to the second True North film, Yoga Hosers, a spin-off focusing on the two teenage clerks from the Canadian convenience store Eh-2-Zed, Colleen Collette (Lily-Rose Depp) and Colleen McKenzie (Harley Quinn Smith). This movie is a whole different brand of weird, one which skews younger - the target demographic is females in the age range of the teenage main characters, the idea being that the movie could provide young girls with a pair of butt-kicking heroines they could more directly relate to in a cinema landscape overwhelmingly populated by heroes whose aliases end in "man". (Batman, Superman, Spider-Man, Iron Man, you get the picture.)

Smith was clearly dedicated to capturing a kid-friendly tone. Some stray "shit"s and the refrain of "Goddamn yoga hosers" aside, most of this film is about as edgy as a Disney Channel special. The tone is poppy and light as the film introduces the Colleens and delves into their lives. Smartphones clutched tightly, they endure their soul-sucking, social life-killing job at the convenience store and exasperating interactions with parents and teachers. They are overjoyed at being invited to a party by a pair of older boys, they shirk work duties to practice with their band Glamthrax (the girls are joined by Adam Brody as a drummer), they're the top students of an oddball strip mall yoga teacher called Yogi Bayer (Justin Long).

Viewers expecting something along the lines of Tusk may be put off when they find themselves watching a comedy starring young girls that's for young girls, but there is something else going on, a dark streak that runs through some scenes - a man gets attacked in a park by an unseen assailant, there's mention of body parts being found strewn around the area. It's interesting that Adam Brody shows up in this film as a musician, because he was also a musician in Jennifer's Body and Yoga Hosers does briefly appear to be going in a direction reminiscent of that film... But then it takes a much different, more unique path.

Yoga Hosers has been described as "Clueless meets Gremlins", a description that was changed to "Clueless meets Ghoulies" when Smith decided that referencing Gremlins was reaching too far. Like both Gremlins and Ghoulies, this film does feature tiny terrors, and the creatures lurking around the Eh-2-Zed are some of the most absurd creations to ever hit the screen. They're called Bratzis, and they're foot tall Canadian Nazis made of sentient bratwurst who have concentrated sauerkraut for blood and kill people by crawling up their asses and out their mouths. Now, some may look at a sentence like that and take it as a negative, but they're not looking for what I'm looking for in a movie. For me, the concept of Bratzis ranks right up there with "a guy turns another guy into a walrus" as an "I never knew how badly I needed to see this" brilliantly dumb idea.

As the girls find out in history class, there really were Nazis in Canada back in the day, with a journalist named Adrien Arcand (played here by Haley Joel Osment) calling himself the Canadian Fuhrer and starting his own fascist political party. What the history books won't tell you, however, is that Arcand was in league with a man named Andronicus Arcane (Ralph Garman), who was creating an army of Nazis out of sausage. Arcane has now risen from his cryogenic chamber hidden in a secret bunker beneath the Eh-2-Zed, his stunted Bratzis at his side and murder on his mind.

The Colleens set out to thwart Arcane's nefarious schemes, using their yoga positions as fighting moves and receiving some help from Quebecois manhunter Guy Lapointe - Lily-Rose's father Johnny Depp returning as his Tusk character. Lapointe had the tendency to bog the pace of Tusk down a bit, but he doesn't have that effect on Yoga Hosers. The character has a bit more pep to him this time around, as well as a mole on his face that randomly switches positions, disappears, and multiplies from shot to shot.

Yoga Hosers is an astoundingly strange movie that doesn't even attempt to seem like it's set in our reality. As the characters say at one point, "This isn't the real world, this is Canada." A Canada that exists only in Kevin Smith's imagination. The film functions on a cartoon logic, nothing truly makes sense. It's somewhat jarring how ridiculous it is, and might be less so if this actually were animated. If it were, the viewer would probably be asking less questions about how things work. If you find yourself wondering why there are guitars on the soundtrack during a band performance where no one is holding a guitar or how the plumbing could possibly function in a toilet that slides over to reveal a secret passageway, you either have to accept the fact that you're watching a cartoon, or write the whole affair off as insufferably stupid.

This is a kids' comedy through and through, the horror aspects are never truly horrific and the villains are never threatening. Still, there is a reverence for horror movies evident, particularly in the score by Christopher Drake, which has clear nods to The Shining and John Carpenter synth music in general and Halloween in particular. Another reference comes in a line of dialogue: the first thing Guy Lapointe says when meeting the Colleens is "Children shouldn't play with dead things." When listing his Yoga Hosers influences, Smith mentions several Charles Band productions, Ghoulies being one of them, and another being Puppet Master. While the army of Bratzis (which Smith had to step in to play himself after his frequent collaborator Jason Mewes couldn't handle wearing the prosthetics due to claustrophobia) were brought to the screen through digital trickery, they do at times move with a sort of unnatural motion that made me think of the awesome stop motion animation that the early Puppet Master films would mix in with the puppetry of their tiny terrors.

Yoga Hosers is a bizarre melting pot of references and influences, including the aforementioned horror films, John Hughes movies, Clerks, Smith's childhood obsession with Bob and Doug McKenzie, the 1966 Batman TV series, and the real lifelong friendship of its two stars. Sure, this is nepotism, a filmmaker built a movie around his daughter and her best friend, but the girls took this opportunity and ran with it, capably carrying the film on their shoulders and proving themselves to be naturals. They show true promise, which I think other filmmakers will pick up on as well. In fact, Lily-Rose is already being cast in films that Kevin Smith and Johnny Depp have nothing to do with, and I believe the same will be happening for Harley Quinn. They both did very well here.

Smith's podcast network also played a large role in the crafting of this story, and as with Tusk I'm left wondering how this movie would work for someone who doesn't listen to the podcasts. When Ralph Garman shows up and starts delivering his monologue in the voices of different actors his pop culture-consuming character has learned to imitate (Al Pacino, Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Adam West, Paul Lynde), regular listeners to the Hollywood Babble-On podcast will get it immediately, while someone who hasn't heard the show will likely be baffled. This is in-joke city.

The appeal of Yoga Hosers is admittedly quite limited. I'm not even sure how much it will connect with its target demographic, as young girls may like and relate to the Collens, but how will they react to the Bratzis? The audience for this is small, but I'm in it, as this blend of comedy, craziness, and goofball charm provided me with 90 minutes of entertainment of a sort that no other movie out there can offer. I fully support Smith's new approach of grasping onto insanity, saying "Why not?", and pushing whimsy all the way to the screen, and while this may not have had the emotional resonance with me as some of his earlier works have had, I am left with an eagerness to watch the movie again as soon as possible.

As the end credits of Yoga Hosers came to their conclusion, Kevin returned to the front of the theatre for the Q&A portion of the night, talking to the audience about various subjects over the course of two hours.

The subjects included his recent gig directing an episode of the Flash television series, which has led to him developing two TV shows of his own - a series based on the 1984 film The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, which has already found a network home, and a ten episode series that will serve as a sequel to his 1995 film Mallrats, a show that will soon be shopped around to networks.

That opened the door for a status update on the hockey mini-series he has been wanting to make for years, Hit Somebody. As it turns out, investors and studios are very hesitant to do anything concerning hockey. One of the biggest producers in Hollywood, Jerry Bruckheimer, has a hockey project that he can't get made. Kevin is hoping that if Buckaroo Banzai and/or the Mallrats series are successful, he might finally be able to find a home for Hit Somebody.

There was also brief talk about the status of Clerks III, and it sounds like we still have a while to wait for that one.

Of course, there was also a lot of talk specifically about Yoga Hosers, the actors and the creatures. He went into the fact that Red State/Tusk villain Michael Parks had originally been cast as Arcane but fell ill, so Ralph Garman was brought on to replace him, and Kevin then added the celebrity impressions aspect because of how well those go over with the live audiences when they record the Hollywood Babble-On podcast.

He also revealed that the Bratzis weren't always going to be Bratzis, but rather just miniature Hitler clones called Hitlins. Deciding he didn't want to have a bunch of Hitlers in his movie, Kevin was trying to figure out how to make these little things more palatable. The suggestion to make them bratwurst monsters came from special effects artist Robert Kurtzman.

Jason Mewes had been set to play the Hitlins, but the Bratzis required more prosthetics, which he couldn't wear due to extreme claustrophobia caused by traumatic childhood experiences. Mewes was given a cameo as a "rogue cop" instead, and since Haley Joel Osment's agent wouldn't let him play the Bratzis, Kevin put on the prosthetics himself.

The Q&A wrapped up with Kevin discussing skill vs. will, how you can have skill in a particular area but you have to have will to accomplish things, and encouraging all of us in the audience to pursue a creative way of expressing ourselves, whether through art, filmmaking, podcasting, whatever route we feel we can take to get our voices out there and tell our stories. Everyone has a story to tell, whether it's made up or the story of your life, and there's someone out there who could be helped by hearing your story.

Kevin said he will be back at Studio 35 in a year, and he's hoping to hear updates on our endeavors.

With that, the night came to a close. In all, attendees of that showing got to hear Kevin speak for three hours in addition to getting to watch his new movie before its proper theatrical release. It was an awesome time, and it was great getting to see Kevin again after a few years.

Distributor Invincible Pictures will be releasing Yoga Hosers into theatres on September 2nd, with a special Fathom Events sneak peek scheduled for August 30th.

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