Kevin Smith loves his daughter. That much, if nothing else, is clear from watching the starring vehicle he’s built for her. Harley Quinn Smith, 17, had one scene in his last movie, Tusk, playing a loopy Canadian convenience-store employee named Colleen. Her costar: Johnny Depp’s 17-year-old daughter, Lily-Rose Depp, who also played a loopy Canadian convenience-store employee named Colleen. The Colleens are back in Yoga Hosers, which expands their miniature buddy comedy to feature length, and whenever the two actresses are bantering—they don’t do much else, really—it’s possible to see why the writer-director thought their chemistry would be enough to carry a movie. His paternal pride illuminates every scene. And movies have been carried by less.
Trouble is, Yoga Hosers isn’t really a movie. It’s a quarter-to-1:00 a.m. SNL sketch, nightmarishly distended into oblivion. It’s a corny Canuck joke, told for 88 surreally unfunny minutes. It has a target demographic of one: He wears hockey jerseys and, again, loves his daughter. “I don’t give a shit about the audience anymore,” Smith announced at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, by way of introducing the thing. Maybe it’s dirty pool to bludgeon an artist with his own self-deprecation, or just foolish to believe that a filmmaker who’s lived and died on feedback could lose interest in it. (This is a guy, remember, who routinely apologizes for his own movies and rehashes old successes.) Yoga Hosers, however, makes it easy to take Smith at his word. No one who gives any shits about their audience would subject them to something so insultingly slapdash.
The film’s chief asset, maybe its only one, is its scion starlets. A little of their high-energy space-cadet routine goes a long way, but at least the two seem like real friends, even if the characters they’re playing rarely seem like real teenagers. The Colleens are a 46-year-old man’s idea of how adolescents talk and act: They call things “basic,” bury their noses in cell phones (expect lots of onscreen text and Instagram references), and generally behave like a parody of a parody of kids today. When not manning the front counter of their Winnipeg one stop shop Eh-2-Zed, they’re taking yoga classes with a Zen doofus (Justin Long) or jamming in the back room with a snarky older musician (Adam Brody). Smith’s faith in the pair is endearing. He just seems to have put little effort into anything other than showcasing their rapport. (Used to be that the director’s indifference extended chiefly to how he framed his shots.)
“I’m not even supposed to be here today,” one of the Colleens chirps, in a callback for the faithful. But this is no distaff Clerks, no return to the smutty conversational comedy of Smith’s youth—and not just because, in his desire to fashion his own anthem for a 17-year-old girl, the filmmaker has pulled his mind and mouth out of the gutter. Yoga Hosers has the strange problem of possessing both too much and too little plot. Half the running time elapses before Johnny Depp shows up, nearly unrecognizable under prosthetics and a bad Quebecois accent, to reprise the role of his Tusk detective. In that film, Depp’s sketch-comedy mugging ground the story to a halt. In this one, he seems to have been brought in to finally kick it into motion. The conspiracy our heroines half-heartedly unearth involves (wait for it) an army of Nazi bratwursts, all played by none other than the director himself. This allows Smith to chase his Human Centipede riff with a Gremlins clone—and to work in some of the year’s worst special effects. (The Shit Monster of Dogma looks like a Weta creation by comparison.)
There was honestly more movie to Tusk, a limp horror-comedy that began as a podcast freestyle and was voted into existence by listeners. (Would they have tweeted differently if they knew a whole dopey trilogy was the true cost of #WalrusYes?) What we mainly get from Yoga Hosers, the second of Smith’s three planned trips to the Great White North, is one tired Canadian gag after another. Did you know that they love hockey and maple syrup? And that they have funny accents? (“Sooree boot that,” goes the Colleens’ signature catchphrase, repeated ad nauseam, as though it were the height of hilarity.) Smith’s wit and senses seems to have escaped him, but his gooey heart is clearly in the right place; if Yoga Hosers has any redeeming quality, it’s the plain parental affection that inspired its conception. Why he thought anyone else needed to see this glorified family favor is a true mystery.