Both films are not highly regarded by critics and probably polarize even Kevin Smith fans since they're not exactly along the lines of Clerks but you can see some pretty broad hints of Smith's leanings toward weird comedy horror in Red State.
Even Kevin uses these two films as self deprecating punching bags for his film career. It's not that he thinks they're bad films, he just recognizes the silly weirdness doesn't give them broad appeal and therefore they often get poor reviews.
Full disclosure, I'm a Kevin Smith fan but, whilst I've been wanting to see both of these movies for a while, Kevin's continued put downs of them in his podcasts, didn't help to make seeing them a priority. Plus I'm not a horror movie fan in general.
As well, as much as I am a fan of Kevin, his movies aren't in my top films of all time list. I own most of his early catalogue on DVD. They're all a fun watch (or even rewatch) but they kind of hit the category of I'm glad they exist but I got all I was really going to get from them on the first or second watch. I kind of feel the same after watching Tusk and Yoga Hosers for the first time.
I was there for the entire journey of this film. I heard the original podcast that inspired it, and the subsequent podcasts where Smith would update listeners on the film's progress. Regardless of whether you like Smith and/or his films or not, you really have to respect his drive in transforming a silly podcast conversation, with his long time friend and producer Scott Mosier, into an actual movie.
It really fits in with Kevin's mythos too. Just like the film Slacker was Kevin's light bulb moment of if this counts as a movie then I could make a movie you can look at Tusk and think, if this weirdness can get made then I could make almost anything too.
Whilst Kevin says he makes movies these days for himself Tusk is clearly made for his fans too with many references and nods to Smith folklore.
As such, you're more likely to enjoy the film if you've heard and watch it in the spirit of the original conversation that inspired it. Essentially it's more comedy than horror. It's whimsical, silly comedy based on the increasing silliness of the ideas it was born from.
Justin Long does a great job of playing podcaster Wallace Bryton as a kind of likeable, but also a bit of a dick character, who goes to Canada and stumbles into an intriguing story after his original subject doesn't pan out.
Michael Parks gets to play another enigmatic, slightly off balance, role as Howard Howe, though I definitely prefer his Red State performance and character to what he had to work with here.
Johnny Depp as investigator, Guy Lupointe seems like a work in progress in this film once you see the character more fully developed in Yoga Hosers. It's not one of Depp's better performances or characters compared to his other roles. In fact it's so understated he almost comes across as bored in some scenes.
The Colleens, played by Smith's daughter, Harley, and Depp's daughter Lily-Rose, aren't particularly outstanding given the small role they play in the overall plot. You wouldn't immediately think these two characters are the obvious starting point for a sequel. Not that Yoga Hosers is a sequel but it is the same universe, and I'm glad their role inspired another film focussed on them.
In general Tusk starts out strong but once it heads into its real weirdness it's becomes hard to stay with it, particularly as it resolves everything in the third act rather abruptly... and then goes on with an additional scene that made me think Kevin struggled to find an ending for the film. Then in the credits an extract from the original podcast is played describing what Kevin thought the ending might be, and it's actually pretty close to what you just watched.
I had fun with Tusk. It wasn't quite what I imagined based on the things Kevin had said about over the years, and I'm glad it was more comedy than horror.
Yoga Hosers is intended to be a movie for tween-age girls (according to Smith). The main trailer for this film virtually gives away all of the visual surprises from the Bratzis (who are also on the poster) to the third act Goalie Golem... I guess Kevin wanted to put the weirdness right on front street before any tweens got the wrong idea of what this movie actually is?
After viewing the film I don't think it plays all that well for tweens because in the second and third acts the comedy leans more into Kevin Smith fan humor. Particularly once Ralph Garman appears and (minor spoiler) starts doing impressions of people most tween girls have probably never heard of.
To be fair, this is acknowledged, within the story but still means the target audience has to sit through lengthy dialogue featuring impressions they probably don't recognize.
With all that in mind, as a 48 year old, male, Kevin Smith fan, I really enjoyed the weird silliness of the film. I think it would kind of be cool if the Colleens ended up being as endearing and long lasting as Jay and Silent Bob before them. Kevin was right to want to do more with these two characters. (I was going to say, maybe not comedy horror on their next outing but they're slated to return in Moose Jaws... soooo, comedy horror it is!).
Of all the Kevin Smith movies I've seen this one has the most fun and best opening scene. So much so that as soon as the movie ended I went back and rewatched the opening, which is just the Colleens and their drummer (Adam Brody) performing a rocking comedy song in the back room of the Eh-to-Zed convenience store. Lily-Rose and Harley Quinn just own it with great comic timing and a fun performance.
The plot isn't deep. The Colleens cross paths again with Guy Lupointe as he investigates a series of suspicious and unusual deaths that have been occurring in the region.
Lupointe, as played by Johnny Depp, has a lot more to do and is played with a little more enthusiasm in this outing. He kind of becomes something of a bridge between the Colleens and all the outdated pop culture references they're not familiar with.
It's interesting to see Justin Long and Haley Joel Osment from Tusk recast almost seamlessly in the way Kevin Smith has recast people in his previous, linked universe films. Here Justin Long plays Yoga instructor Yogi Bayer mostly for laughs, and Haley plays Adrien Arcand, who is very loosely based on an actual historical figure from Canada's wartime history.
I know other Tusk alumni, including Ralph Garman, were recast in Yoga Hosers but Justin and Haley are most notable given their more major roles in the previous films. It never takes me out of the movie even though I'm reminded that these actors are now playing different characters.
Ralph Garman does what he does best, showing off some of his eight impressions (HB inside joke). Most of the time I only hear him do his impressions on Kevin and Ralph's Hollywood Babylon podcast so seeing him do them as a character in a movie was a bit of a novelty.
One thing I have to wonder is, how would this movie have turned out if Michael Parks had been able to play Andronicus Arcane, as intended, before Ralph was cast. As far as I know Parks doesn't do impressions. I would've liked to have seen that but unfortunately his health was failing and he was unable to participate.
The only real disappointment I had with this film is that the Goalie Golem is under utilized. It's such an awesome looking suit for a comedy horror film. I wish it had played more of a role in the suspense of the second and third acts.
The most enjoyable part of the movie is the Colleens who fall somewhere between kind of cool, but somewhat dorky, within the school system. It's hard to tell. They have all the attitude of being too cool to be cool but they're not really with the popular girls either. They're kind of cool loners.
I really enjoyed Lily-Rose and Harley's performances all throughout the film. Given some of the silliness they have to perform both really embrace and sell it. They clearly seem to enjoy being in the movie.
I feel Yoga Hosers is an unjustly criticised movie. Like Tusk, it's not intended to be taken as a serious horror film, and the comedy is very much in the wheelhouse of what you'd expect from Smith. It's an intentionally weird and wacky film that I unexpectedly enjoyed more than I thought I was going to. Largely because Smith talks this movie down all the time so I wasn't expecting too much from it.
It's a more rewatchable movie than Tusk because the characters are more likeable, the premise is more fun, and the ending is more positive. As I said, I'd love to see another movie featuring the Colleens and hope they become a mainstay of future Smith films.
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Detractors of these two films will probably dismiss me as a die hard Kevin Smith fanboy, and they're probably right... so die hard I rushed out to see these movies four and two years respectively after their release.
I think both films are fun, light entertainment that achieve what Smith set out to achieve. To make a weird pair of movies that only he would make. In the big scheme of things these movies may only appeal to a niche audience of Smith fans and people who embrace weird, which is admirable in the sense that it's comforting to know niche films can get made.
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