- Rated R
- Buy the BD
Reviewed by Jason Zingale
here are two things you should know about “Dogma.” First off, it’s no one’s favorite Kevin Smith movie. And second, it’s no one’s least favorite either. It is, however, the director’s most ambitious film, and though it shares many similarities with other titles in the View Askew catalog, there was a certain air of professionalism surrounding his fourth feature that seemed to indicate Smith was finally ready to establish himself as a serious director.
Prior to “Dogma,” Smith was strictly admired for his ability to write sharp dialogue and play a goofy character that hardly spoke. With this film, he set his sights higher, widening the scope of the story beyond the state lines of New Jersey and taking aim at the always-controversial subject of religion. As you can imagine, Smith was met with criticism for his comic take on the touchy material. Most people didn’t really have a reason to be offended (that is, unless you were a platypus), but it didn’t stop them from trying. Nevertheless, Smith handled the material far better than you would imagine for a movie laced with fart jokes and expletives, and though he still had a lot to learn as a filmmaker, “Dogma” represented a step in the right direction.
The film stars Linda Fiorentino as Bethany, an abortion clinic employee who, despite going to church every Sunday out of habit, has completely lost her faith. Visited by a seraph named Metatron (Alan Rickman) one night, Bethany is recruited for a Holy Crusade to stop two renegade angels – Bartelby (Ben Affleck) and Loki (Matt Damon) – from reentering Heaven via a loophole in papal law. What the two angels don’t realize, however, is that by exploiting this particular loophole, they’d also be proving that God is fallible, resulting in the immediate destruction of all existence. With the help of two prophets (Jason Mewes and Smith), a forgotten apostle (Chris Rock), and a sexy muse (Salma Hayek), Bethany must travel to New Jersey in time to stop Bartleby and Loki from undoing the history of mankind.
With a setup like that, it’s impossible to believe Smith wouldn’t succeed. The dialogue is as sharp as ever, and though several of the View Askew alumni don’t appear in starring roles, they’re still prominently featured throughout – including Jason Lee as the demon muse Azrael, Brian O’Halloran as a TV reporter, and Jeff Anderson as the gunsmith who sells Loki his new weapon of death. The upside is that Smith was able to secure better actors for the lead roles. Ben Affleck and Matt Damon steal the movie as the bickering angels, while the casting of Alanis Morissette as God was beyond brilliant. Not every casting decision was spot-on, however, and though Jay & Silent Bob prove to be more annoying here than in any other Kevin Smith film, it’s Linda Fiorentino’s uninspired performance that virtually guarantees she’ll be blacklisted from any future View Askew productions.
At 130 minutes, “Dogma” is easily Smith’s longest movie, but for good reason. While his other films are relatively simplistic, this one has a massive mythology and several different concepts that it must address. At times, it’s more complicated than it needs to be, but considering how often Smith was attacked during the film’s theatrical release, it was probably a smart move to be as thorough as possible. Of course, “Dogma” wasn’t sacrilegious like some suggested. It was just trying to point out the many inconsistencies in Catholicism and, much like the ridiculous Buddy Jesus that highlights the film’s fictional “Catholicism Wow” campaign, was looking for ways to modernize it for a new generation. It’s too bad Smith's trademark humor got in the way, because while the film definitely has its flaws, there’s no denying that it also had the ability to serve as an intelligent debate about religion.
Single-Disc Blu-Ray Review:
There are no surprises here. The 2001 special edition was jam-packed with bonus material, and with five times the storage capacity of DVD, the Blu-ray edition has been outfitted with all of the same extras. Two audio commentaries (including one with writer/director Kevin Smith, producer Scott Mosier, and stars Ben Affleck, Jason Mewes and Jason Lee) kick it off in good fashion, while the 96 minutes worth of deleted scenes further imply just how through Smith’s script really was. Also included is a 13-minute outtake reel, original storyboards for three scenes, and a brief TV plug for Smith’s New Jersey-based comic book store.