Starring: Harley Quinn Smith, Lily-Rose Depp, Johnny Depp
Directed by: Kevin Smith (“Tusk”)
Written by: Kevin Smith (“Clerks”)
There seemed to be a time in Hollywood when the industry was ready to take Kevin Smith seriously. On the heels of the vulgar, credit card-financed success of “Clerks,” crafting an oh-so-‘90s love story set firmly in the world of comic books with “Chasing Amy,” and co-producing the Ben Affleck and Matt Damon launch-to-superstardom-and-Oscars movie “Good Will Hunting,” Smith seemed to be ready to join fellow Miramax darlings Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez at the adult’s table. Hell, by 2000, Smith already had a failed, somewhat brilliant animated series and a heavily-protested religious comedy with an all-star cast under his belt—that’s an entertainment cult hero starter kit in itself.
Of those three, two decades later, only Tarantino still stands as a force in Hollywood. One could argue that the trio never stopped making movies for themselves and their fans, just that Tarantino was the only one who actually made good films to begin with. But I digress–enough about QT and Rodriguez, we’re here to talk about what the hell happened to Kevin Smith and his ability to tell a funny story on a movie screen (he’s still a great monologist, FYI). The ragtag, overwritten, friends-hanging-out charm of “Clerks” and “Chasing Amy” is long gone, replaced with unfunny inside jokes and a just-as-unfunny fascination with a cartoon version of Canada. It’s that lazy attitude that birthed 2014’s really awful “Tusk” and its sort-of sequel, the equally-awful “Yoga Hosers.”
Colleen M. (Harley Quinn Smith) and Colleen C. (Lily-Rose Depp) are yoga-obsessed clerks (yep) at a Canadian convenience store called “Eh-2-Zed” who aspire to be rock stars and say “aboot” a whole bunch as they sell artisan maple syrup to their Canadian clientele. The plot has them sing at least two full songs before anything really happens, namely two cute boys want to party with them. Only thing is, they’re Satanists, who want them for sacrifice—that is until some tiny Nazi bratwursts (known as “Bratzis”) literally jump up the asses and out of the mouths of the boys, leading to their grisly deaths. So forget those Satanists, now it’s time for private investigator Guy Lapointe (a Quebecois-accented pile of makeup with Johnny Depp underneath, admittedly less annoying that he was in “Tusk”) to show up, revealing to the Colleens that the Eh-2-Zed is built on land previously owned by Nazis as a staging area for a North American invasion. Now they have to find a secret passage and kill some old Nazi scientist (Ralph Garman) before he unleashes a critic-murdering monster (sigh) on the world.
Look, there’s one decent running joke in the movie, and it comes from Justin Long’s yogi, groaningly named Yogi Bayer, and his bafflement at receiving cease-and-desist letters from Warner Bros. regarding his copyright infringement on their intellectual property related to cartoon character Yogi Bear. It’s stupid, sure, but a legitimate funny joke in a movie devoid of such things. Unfortunately it’s underplayed in the movie and shoved aside in favor of characters saying “soory” and “eh” and talking about moose and hockey or watching Depp’s grotesque moles migrate all over his face at random. Shit, calling this a “movie” is really stretching the definition, and it’s difficult to reconcile this snickering sideways glance at some old joke that probably wasn’t that funny to begin with as coming from a writer-director who was at least interestingly profane so many years ago, and one who still has the ability to tell great, dirty stories on stage behind a microphone. It’s not that Kevin Smith’s filmmaking hasn’t changed since 1994…it’s that he’s actually gotten worse.