After his zeitgeist-capturing early work (Clerks; Mallrats; Chasing Amy; Dogma), Kevin Smith was The Man – in demand, and revered by critics and an ever-expanding fan base. And for good reason: he brought a uniqueness and realism to his characters and their interactions. His dialog crackled with heartfelt intensity and humor, and hummed with a distinctive life not found in the committee-tooled, star-studded rom-coms of Hollywood. He updated the John Hughes formula to fit the transition between Generations X & Y, and established a similarly unique voice that will be hard to forget.
As an armchair screenwriter, I say this with complete sincerity: when he’s using dialog to get to the core of his characters, Smith’s films are brilliant and inspiring.
But in recent years, Smith has become The Guy. He still gets invited to cocktail parties (or Comic-Con panels) and draws the attention of starstruck curiosity seekers and industry newbies. He jokes around, telling stories of past successes and collaborators who’ve ascended the mainstream Hollywood ranks (“I worked with Batman before he was Batman…no, not that Batman”), and regales the gathered with puns. Lots of puns. He laughs at every pun, explaining just how clever it is. Some of the starstruck curiosity seekers hang around, nursing their drinks, not quite sure how to detach themselves from the predicament they’ve found themselves in, while the rest make up excuses about “an early work day” before making a quick exit.
Don’t get me wrong: I love a good (bad?) pun. We utter a friendly groan after hearing one because we should know better, but find the linguistic allure irresistible. It’s fun to pun!
But with Yoga Hosers, Smith is no longer writing characters as people to relate to, but as empty vessels for the machinations of the plot. Empty vessels that utter a near-constant string of puns, something I’m not sure even the greatest screenwriters in history could make palatable for nearly 90 minutes. This might’ve come across more favorably if cocktail-party Smith didn’t feel the compulsion to have his characters point out the puns in a manner that underlines their author’s self-professed cleverness while condescending to an audience he perceives as too stupid to catch on.
Remember the old saying that, once seen, something particularly horrible and/or bizarre cannot be unseen?
There are great and/or disturbing films that back up this saying quite well – too many to mention, in fact.
But there are just as many mediocre and/or awful films that also prove this old adage.
Unfortunately, Hosers doesn’t fall into the “great” category…or even the “good” category…and could only be considered “disturbing” in regard to the substances Smith was consuming at the screenplay stage.
Not all of this is endemic of the script itself. While the quality of Smith’s writing over the years has become increasingly inconsistent, Hosers is as indicative of the shift in his role as an analyst of relationships to a conceptual jokester whose affinity for his own projects is approaching a Coen Brothers level of uncertainty (is he laughing with or at us?).
The good news? The film doesn’t suffer from any imbalance of serious and/or funny. It obliviously flails for hipster-cult, Tim and Eric Awesome Show status throughout its 88-minute run time. It’s wild, random, absurd, and generally all over the place – it even uses RPG-styled cutaways to detail the (ultimately irrelevant) traits of the supporting characters. It’s either Smith’s riff on Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, or a last-ditch attempt to prove he’s still one of the “cool kids” at the indie-filmmaking table (though Hosers affirms, with tragic certainty, that that time has passed).
A sort-of-sequel to Tusk, Hosers follows two marginal characters from that film – Colleen C. (Lily-Rose Depp) and Colleen M. (Harley Quinn Smith) – as they go through the motions as bored high-school students and bored convenience-store clerks (with aspirations of one day playing at Empire Records, no doubt). They say “eh” and “aboot” a lot, because the movie is set in Canada and nobody has ever addressed those colloquialisms in film before, and it’s funny, right? Over the course of one crazy night that entails more teen-flick cliches and ridiculous stereotypes than Sixteen Candles, the Colleens run afoul of death-metal dipshits looking for a virgin sacrifice; an army of Nazi bratwursts (they say “nein” and “wunderbar” a lot, because nobody has ever addressed those colloquialisms in film before, and it’s funny, right?); and awakened-from-cryosleep fascist Andronicus Arcane (Ralph Garman), who lapses into a revolving-door shtick of celebrity impersonations to lay out his stupid, stupid – and seemingly endless – plot for world domination.
Will our bargain-bin Enid and Rebecca use their mad yoga skillz to save the day?
Will “yoga hoser” catch on in the Canadian-American vernacular as a witty insult du jour?
Will Johnny Depp’s French-Canadian detective, Guy Lapointe (another Tusk refugee) not be the most obnoxious thing about this…thing?
Will Smith do right and not turn his daughter and the daughter of one of Hollywood’s most bankable stars into ditzy and/or disaffected dumb-blonde stereotypes?
The end credits conclude with Smith and his former producer, Scott Mosier, doing their best-worst riffs on Canadian accents; they have a ball and seem to find whatever the other says hilarious. I guess we’re the real assholes for watching, huh, guys?
Jonny Numb’s IMDb Rating: 2 out of 10