For the past few years, particularly since the release of 2011’s Red State, Kevin Smith has led a (mostly) one-man campaign to carve his own path through 21st-century popular culture. Temporarily ditching his film career in favour of podcasting and live appearances, things came full circle with his first podcast-inspired film, Tusk, released in 2014. Conceived as part of a “True North Trilogy” — three bizarre horror-comedy films set in Canada — the second instalment, Yoga Hosers is coming this fall, and yesterday we got the first glimpse at the film’s trailer.
Yoga Hosers has already made its debut at Sundance, and the critical reception was, to use a colossal understatement, mild. With some critics even going so far as to call the film “child abuse”, Yoga Hosers may hold the distinction of being the worst-reviewed film of Smith’s career (and this is the man who gave us Jersey Girl and Cop Out). Smith resolutely does not care, as he has stated many times during his various podcasts, and insists that he loves this film, and its other poorly-received cousin, Tusk, as much as anything he’s ever done, because it’s exactly the film he set out to make, no more, no less. Smith’s recent comments on the passing of Prince reveal something key to understanding his artistic personality, namely that he always envied Prince’s resolution to do things his own peculiar way, within the entertainment industry. Smith is taking his cues from His Royal Badness and applying them to his art. Critics can scream in his face all they like, label his movies with all manner of insulting terms, and Smith, like Prince, just laughs them off. In fact, Smith characterizes many of his critics as sputtering fussbudgets saying, “Fuck you for trying something different!” For Smith, trying something different is what it’s all about, at least at the moment.
Yoga Hosers stars Lily-Rose Depp (daughter of Johnny, returning for this film as Guy Lapointe) and Harley Quinn Smith (daughter of Kevin) as two Canadian convenience store clerks who become embroiled in a supernatural mystery at their store involving little German sausages (“Bratzis”) who come to life and wreak havoc. They are assisted by Police investigator Guy Lapointe (who appeared in Tusk) and their own pluck and courage. Smith, reportedly, goes easy on the language that made him famous and aims for a PG-13 film that his daughter and her friends would enjoy.
The title comes from one of Smith’s “Smodcasts”, as do many other plot elements, including terrible German accents and Al Pacino impressions (both from his “Hollywood Babble-On” podcast, featuring actor and radio personality Ralph Garman). In fact, judging from the trailer and from Tusk, this film will include wall-to-wall references to the mad little cultural landscape Smith and his friends have managed to create on his podcasts, with their spontaneous and marijuana-fuelled twists and turns. To listen to them (as I do, every day) is to spend time with friends who your own real-life buddies only wish they match in terms of inspired wit and insane humour.
The critics will be sure to hate Yoga Hosers, and probably its follow-up, the third in the trilogy, Moose Jaws. But Smith is more positive and more engaged and inspired than he has been in years. The whole reason why he broke from cinema is that he was tired of being asked to make the same sort of movie over and over again — witness the formulaic Zack and Miri Make a Porno or Cop Out — and not tell stories that were close to his heart. I, for one, would much rather see any artist, Smith included, creating vivid, original pieces that reflect their own peculiar sensibilities. To his many vicious critics I would simply ask, would you rather have five more Cop Outs? Smith, in any case, doesn’t care. Yes, he’ll eventually give us Mallrats 2 and the long-awaited and delayed Clerks III, but for now he’s gleefully seeing how far he can push his talent and his imagination. It’s fascinating to watch, even if the films have a relatively narrow appeal.