Dogma


Directed by: Kevin Smith
Written by:Kevin Smith
Starring: Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Salma Hayek, Jason Lee, Linda Fiorentino, Alan Rickman, Chris Rock, Alanis Morissette, Janeane Garofalo
Released: February 3, 2000
Grade: B

Religion is a touchy subject that I don’t particularly find an attractive proposition in movies.  Our religion empowers and directs our lives and I passionately dislike telling people what they should and should not believe in (a major factor in my distaste for What Dreams May Come).

Dogma does not fall under the above description despite the attacks many Catholic leaders have launched on the film.  Dumped by Disney as being too hot to handle, it premiered at Cannes and was eventually released worldwide by Lions Gate Films.

As the comedic opening disclaimer reveals, Dogma is a satire on the Catholic faith and should not be taken serious although it does make several valid points.  It is the story of two fallen angels, Loki (Matt Damon) who at one time lived happily in heaven as the Angel of Death.  Lured by friend Bartleby (Ben Affleck), he disobeyed God’s orders and broke from his angelic status and together they were kicked out of heaven, banished forever.

Thousands of years later, a loophole has provided them with an opportunity to return home.  A special door at a Church celebrating its 100th anniversary, will forgive the sins of those who pass through it and once they do, they can die and go straight back to heaven.

Sent to stop our duo is God’s interpreter Metatron (Rickman) who appears in an unusual vision to Bethany (Fiorentino) and instructs her to get to this Church in New Jersey and stop them from entering.  To help her in her quest she is given two “prophets”, Jay and Silent Bob and along the way catches up with the 13th apostle (Rock) and a stripper/muse (Hayek).  So just how are they going to stop Loki and Bartleby?

Kevin Smith is becoming a very successful cult director.  Following the brilliant Clerks with the mediocre Mall Rats and then the compelling Chasing Amy,  Smith has brought back many of his past cast members (as well as Jay and Silent Bob) for this his fourth feature and it works against the film.  The script has wit but the cast doesn’t do it justice, in particular Jason Lee, Salma Hayek and Alan Rickman.  A better casting job would have made Dogma a better view.  To name two cast members who did make a worthwhile contribution - Fiorentino and Damon were spot-on.

The comedic look at religion is not an issue but the source material is not used to its full potential.  There are a few laughs and top one-liners, but too much room in between and that is its downfall - if you’re going to make a comedy with such sensitive material, you’d better make it damn funny!

Bound to please many of Kevin Smith’s followers, Dogma was a bold project that devoted Catholics should probably avoid (for fear of going to confession).  For others, go along for the ride but don’t expect to get total “enlightenment”.