Scene 9 – Dogma

This week review may offend….you have been warned…

Ps. It has loads of salty surprise words too….icing on the cake if you will

Dogma is a religious comedy by the guy who writes dick jokes and films his friends saying them… I know… I was intrigued too! I remember the first time I saw Dogma, it was the second Kevin Smith movie I’d seen at the time. I remember thinking back to Clerks (The first ) and getting it…you know, when you realise that a movie has ‘that something’…and it did…I mean that dialogue! I remember the same while sitting and watching Dogma thinking, this is amazing…if there is ever going to be a religious movie I wanna see…this is that movie, in that setting. Now I’m not the overly religious type…

Like many of my generation religion was a big part of my upbringing, or at least my parents tried it to be. But like so many we fell-out of it as if it was just another childhood fairytale. I think the movie making guys thought the same, and tried to reconnect the world with these tales…and this just didn’t attract or entice me (I say this cause they did gross a lot…but I have heard Mel Gibson has a big family)…. I mean a lot of us have read the book we know how it ends…(bang, bang, hammer, hammer) guy hanging around etc, etc. Now I’m not dissing them …actually I am…the movies that is… the book and religion, well that’s each to their own, not for me to judge.

But Dogma offers you something different. Smith takes something sacred, holy, if you will…and brings it to a strip club for a real good time…with his trademark explicit language, raunchy humor, and of course witty dialogue…all of which we’ve come to expect from the director who brought us ClerksMallrats, and Chasing Amy. There’s even a hell-spawned demon made out of human shit….it don’t get dirtier then that!

The story centers on two renegade angels named Bartleby and Loki (Ben Affleck and Matt Damon) who have been cast out of heaven to spend an eternity in a place worse than Hell…that’s right, they’ve been sent to Wisconsin…cue Hitchcock-iean scream. But Bartleby and Loki want back into Heaven, so they find a loophole that will allow them to re-enter Heaven with clean souls. This plan involves a new church that is opening in New Jersey, and according to Catholic Dogma ,their souls will be cleansed of all sins if they pass through the archway on the day it opens, thus they are sin free and they can go back to Heaven when they die. One problem, though…. If they do this, it proves God wrong, and the entire universe will be destroyed….swings and rounds.

Along the way,  Loki persuades Bartleby to have a little fun… by killing people who have sinned. Lets just pause for a moment and think about how awesome all those religion lessons would have been if we learnt about these foul-mouthed, vengeance-reigning angels…particularly if we look at Matt Damon’s character Loki in the board-room scene, were he shoots everyone who has sinned, leaving one very scared, blood-drenched woman alive stating, “You led a good life, you can leave”, Then his eyes narrow in anger: “But you didn’t say ‘God bless you’ when I sneezed!”

Another primary character is an abortion clinic worker, Bethany (Linda Fiorentino), who is “chosen”, by god to told by the arch-angel Severus Snape…Alan Rickman… to stop the two angels from passing through the archway. She is told she will be aided by two prophets, Jay and Silent Bob…wouldn’t have called them prophets…, who were looking for chicks outside of her abortion clinic because, Jay says, “What better place to find loose chicks?” So while on their journey, a naked black guy falls out of the sky onto the street.…Pretty average Tuesday then…But its turns out he’s Rufus (Chris Rock), the wisecracking 13th Apostle who wasn’t included in the Bible because he’s black. Again this exchange shows off Smith’s witty conversations when Rufus is asked if he knew Jesus… “Knew him? Nigga owes me 10 bucks!”

The supporting cast is nothing to take away from either with Salma Hayek as a stripper/Muse with a heart of gold, Smith’s go to guy; Jason Lee as the evil demon Azrael, George Carlin as a Catholic priest…what a casting, and Alanis Morisette as God…shocked even me….But if you add it all up you’ve got a funny, entertaining, and even thought-provoking epic…and thats before Smith gets all wordy up on ya!

Upon its release Dogma did feel some heat from religious groups who said that the film makes a mockery of Catholicism. Did any of those attacking the film ever see the movie? Same issue with Smith’s Red State…and the answer is the same probably not! It does poke fun at organised religion, but it’s ultimately very affectionate toward the very religion some say that it’s badmouthing. Yes, there are angels killing people… there’s a black Apostle…the horror!, God turns out to be a female…imagine those hate vengeful PMS fill weeks…, with obscenities flying from every characters’ mouths at quite an impressive rate. So if that’s likely to offend your religious beliefs, then don’t see this movie. Simple, huh? Even though a lot of the script does portray some radical…yes but still factual referencing points. But empty vessels and all that…

Regardless of your religious background, Dogma is one hell of an entertaining movie. Helped by the charms of the cast, the plot and some impressive acting… Matt Damon in particular who shows brilliance like he did in Good Will Hunting, two years previous. One thing is about the dialogue, that if you aren’t that well versed in your Catholic mythology, some of the jokes can go right over your head..on the opposite side, if that is the case and you do your research you will find just how factual a seed Smith grew his dialogue from.

Kevin Smith’s visual style was still rough around the edges, but I think he’s maturing as a filmmaker by this point. Some of the FX don’t hold up in present day…but thats like watching the original Star Wars trilogy and complaining about the graphics! With that said, some of the real life FX, like the part at the end with the wings…and I’m not talking about the flying of the shooting, but the after math…look amazing, and is a perfect example of how in movies today, a perfect example of this is the new Hobbit films…were to much CGI ruins it compared to the older movies.

Dogma is amazing, I liked it the first time I watched it and continue to do so everytime since. It’s a comedy that actually has something to say, which is rare in Adam Sandler era of mindless humor in which it was put out into.


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