Dogma (1999)

DOGMA is a laugh out-louder.  With it's hard, *hard* "R"-rating, 
Kevin Smith's controversial comedy-with-Christ is as raunchily fun-
ny as either CLERKS or his underrated MALLRATS.  (And with just as
many geek-friendly film references.  James Bond, John Hughes, a 
great Indy Jones bit, etc.)  DOGMA is also a very *reverent* film
and, thus, is likely to be considered blasphemous by some and down-
right unwatchable by others.  (Admittedly, the latter's more likely
to be due to flimsy filmmaking than the thorny subject matter.)  
Matt Damon and Ben Affleck play a pair of Earth-bound, Heaven-
aspiring angels whose recently hatched scheme for "returning home"
threatens to end all existence.  Which would suck.  With God on
leave, the Home Team enlists a faith-lost abortion doctor (Linda
Fiorentino), two "prophets" (Jason Mewes' and Smith's recurring Jay
and Silent Bob characters), and one dead-man-walking apostle (Chris
Rock) to do battle.  (Also about is Salma Hayek's muse, Jason Lee's
demon, Alan Rickman's Voice of God, a wacky Catholic Cardinal played
by George Carlin, and, in a sequence sure to send 'em home early, a
gurgling golem made of human excrement.)

The writer/director hits a homerun with his daring, faith-pondering 
screenplay, sure, but the film *itself* is an embarrassingly erra-
tic effort.  Nothing about the physical production is even *remote-
ly* consistent-- acting styles, visuals, lighting, direction, tone, 
score, etc.  Even the sound effects are all over the map.  DOGMA 
feels more like *three* movies in one and each increasingly lower-
budget than the last.  (This is a film in desperate need of 5 or 10  
more million dollars.  Well, that and retakes for Rickman.  Was he 
drunk during those first scenes?  On sedatives??)  At least the big 
laughs are there.  Maybe that'll be enough for most folks.  Or, at 
least, for fans of Smith.  The theology's gonna be a tougher sell, 
not because it's preachy, per se, but because it's so *thorough*.  
(This is a movie that takes its religion seriously.)  Oh yeah, his 
raunch-meets-reverence approach is gonna stoke some ire.  But what 
a great way to teach tolerance, no?   

Grad: C+                             

Copyright 1999 Michael J. Legeros
Movie Hell is a trademark of Michael J. Legeros

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