There are some directors whose collective output is hard to categorise: Robert Wise, who moved from the classic Hollywood musicals West Side Story and The Sound of Music to the cerebral science fiction of The Day the Earth Stood Still and Star Trek The Motion Picture or, more recently, Danny Boyle with Trainspotting, The Beach, …28 Days Later, Sunshine and Slumdog Millionaire, the only throughline being the excellence and expertise of each production.
While perhaps writer/director/sometime actor Kevin Smith cannot approach the levels of artistry of these two craftsmen, it cannot be denied that it is never certain what each new project will bring. While perhaps 2011’s brilliant religious cult siege horror Red State is the only outlier which is not outwardly obvious as Smith’s work and it is a lingering sadness that its poor box office returns did not allow him to launch a parallel career as a serious filmmaker, nevertheless the first two volumes of the loose True North trilogy each offer new and bizarre paths… to Canada.
A semi-sequel to 2014’s horror oddity Tusk, it is two minor characters from that film who take the lead as the titular Yoga Hosers, Smith’s genre bouncing action adventure horror comedy which enjoyed its sold-out British premiere at the Edinburgh International Film Festival, Harley Quinn Smith and Lily-Rose Depp as the convenience store clerks now named as Colleen McKenzie and Colleen Collette, with Mr Smith senior and Miss Smith junior both attending the screening.
The initial impression of the film is that it is in fact a nothing more than vanity project, opening with an extended musical sequence performed by the daughters of Smith and Jennifer Schwalbach (who cameos as Colleen M’s mother, naturally) and Johnny Depp (reprising his heavily disguised Tusk role of eccentric French detective Guy LaPointe) and Vanessa Paradis (Miss Maurice, the Colleen’s history teacher), culminating in that most egregous of rock indulgences, a drum solo provided by heavily tattooed Ichabod (Scream 4‘s Adam Brody).
With the principal location of the Eh-2-Zed, the world’s largest collection of artisan maple syrups, extended breaks and general aim of slacktivism right down to Colleen’s cry of “I’m not even supposed to be here today!” there is much to remind of Smith’s 1994 debut Clerks, but what quickly becomes apparent is that both Smith and Depp juniors can sing, followed by the realisation that both can actually act, and then later Smith senior surprises with the revelation that there is even a plot to tie together the random shenanigans, albeit one even madder and more outlandish than the walrus transformation of Tusk.
With body parts cropping up all over the province, the Colleens didn’t expect danger to come knocking on their open-until-late-every-night door, but that is exactly what happens, first with a date with the hot guys from the senior class (The Shannara Chronicles‘ Austin Butler and Teen Wolf‘s Tyler Posey) who turn out to be a painfully amateur Satanic cult, then the Bratzis, miniature Nazi clones made from Bratwurst with concentrated sauerkraut for blood, intent on taking over Canada.
With only the postures of the pretentious Yogi Beyer (Drag Me to Hell‘s Justin Long, a longtime associate of Smith’s with roles in Zack and Miri Make a Porno and the unfortunate title role in Tusk) with which to defend themselves (“Pretentious frog! Dissatisfied customer! Atlas shrugged!”), it is up to Colleen Squared to defeat the miniature menace, legacy of the “Canadian Führer” Adrien Arcand (Continuum‘s Haley Joel Osment).
With a soundtrack which consciously emulates The Shining and The Fog as well as Nazi favourite Wagner and final act visual attempts to take on league leader Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, it is a return to the teen movie audience of Smith’s earlier work, almost as though he feels he must be constantly vulgar in order to regain his audience, and beneath the fast dialogue Yoga Hosers is a definite step backward after Red State, but taken on its own merits it is periodically if unevenly entertaining and will play well to Smith’s large fanbase.