by Del Harvey
A director that’s known for dark comedies, a cast made of gold, and it all should have been so righteous!
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I went to see Dogma wanting to like it. I enjoyed director Kevin Smith’s other films (Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy), for their quirky independence and honesty. Smith also has a tendency to address some very sensitive and difficult topics head on, which I find refreshing. For this reviewer, I’m afraid, he failed to reach the same levels of integrity in Dogma.
Dogma is touted as being a scathing indictment of religious tenets, and for a short time seems to be just that. Now, if some of these reviewers saw only the first 20 minutes of the film, it would be easy to see how they could be confused. If, however, they stuck around for the entire film, much too long as it is, then they would have a quite different perspective.
A Roman Cathlic Bishop named Glick (George Carlin) has come up with some pretty entrepreneurial schemes to improve patronage at his parish, including a much less depressing representation of the saviour, “Buddy Christ,” and a sure-fire way of improving offerings at the plate with automatic salvation just by walking through the doors of his church, located in the garden state of New Jersey. (If you’ve seen this film you’ll realize that New Jersey should be more offended than the Church!) This creates a loophole in God’s grand plan, because there are two outcast angels lounging around on the planet, Loki (Matt Damon) and Bartleby (Ben Affleck), who rationalize that they can abolish their sins and return home to Heaven just by travelling to New Jersey and entering through the portals of this church. What they don’t figure is that by doing so they prove God fallible and negate reality, and everything ceases to exist.
So Metatron, an angel and the Voice of God, appears before a young Catholic woman (who works at an abortion clinic) named Bethany (Linda Fiorentino) and tells her she must sojourn to Jersey to stop these renegade angels. She will be aided in her journey by two prophets (Jay and Silent Bob, recurring Smith characters - Smith plays Bob).
Other celestial beings who appear along the way to assist her include a Muse (Salma Hayek) and a dead guy who was Christ’s best friend way back when (Chris Rock). They are also being pursued by another outcast angel, Azrael, whose henchmen are a bunch of 13-year old hockey stick wielding punks who look like death warmed over and sound like flies buzzing around whenever they appear. At one point, Azrael conjures up a shit monster to eradicate our erstwhile heroes. The subsequent dispatching of said monster by Silent Bob is pretty funny.
In fact, the first half of the film is pretty good. It’s got humor, it’s got outrageous situations, it takes a hard and comic look at religious beliefs in all their dogmatic forms. But somewhere into the second half the characters start digging into the religious diatribes a little too often and a little too much. We are fed a lot of tripe about Jesus being Black and God being a woman; hey, fine if they are, but Smith’s being PC negates the point of his film - to parody the extremist beliefs of religion. And all of a sudden we’re given a near-Hollywood ending with lots of bloodshed, a blinding flash, and our heroine suddenly finds her lost faith and the world is saved. We’ve gone from Monty Python to Cocoon in the blink of an eye, with no tangible purpose other than to satisfy the inanity of political correctness.
I should think George Carlin would have said something. It’s almost as though at some point during the writing process Smith bought into the very topic he was making fun of. Whatever happened, the result is there on the screen, and it’s as limp as a fish caught on dry land. If you want to see a good Kevin Smith film, check out Chasing Amy, but don?t waste your eight bucks on this thing. Unless you want your beliefs bolstered by a seeming non-believer. Hey, what more could a true believer ask for.
Del Harvey is the founder of Film Monthly. He lives in Chicago, is a devout Bears fan, and therefore deserving of our sympathy.
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