Dogma is a 1999 American adventure fantasy comedy film written and directed by Kevin Smith, who also stars in the film along with an ensemble cast that includes Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Linda Fiorentino, Alan Rickman, Bud Cort, Salma Hayek, Chris Rock, Jason Lee, George Carlin, Janeane Garofalo, Alanis Morissette, and Jason Mewes. Brian O'Halloran and Jeff Anderson, the stars of Smith's debut film Clerks, have cameo roles, as do Smith regulars Scott Mosier, Dwight Ewell, Walt Flanagan, and Bryan Johnson. The fourth film set in the View Askewniverse is a hypothetical-scenario film revolving around the Catholic Church and Catholic belief, which caused organized protests and much controversy in many countries, delaying release of the film and leading to at least two death threats against Smith. The film follows two fallen angels, Loki and Bartleby, who, through a loophole in Catholic Dogma, find a way to get back into Heaven after being cast out by God. However, as existence is founded on the principle that God is infallible, their success would prove God wrong and thus undo all creation. The last scion and two prophets are sent by the Voice of God to stop them.
That’s it. Kevin Smith is going to Hell. Big Hell, with a capital H.
In Dogma, Smith’s long-awaited and already vilified indictment of the Catholic church, the auteur has gone to great lengths to show us he can take on any establishment and gut it wide open. To wit:
Dogma tells the story of two fallen angels (Affleck and Damon, natch) who decide to take advantage of a loophole in Catholic dogma and weasel their way back into Heaven. God’s messenger (Rickman) is sent to convince the cynical Bethany (Fiorentino) to stop the angels because if they make it into Heaven, the world will end. Along the way, Bethany enlists the aid of a half-dozen nutty characters, including prophets Jay and Silent Bob (Mewes and Smith), the muse Serendipity (Hayek, inexplicably borrowed from Greek mythology), and the 13th Apostle Rufus (Rock). Jason Lee also makes his usual Smith movie appearance as Azrael, a demon trying to stop Bethany.
Make sense? If it doesn’t, don’t worry. Smith goes to great lengths to explain things over and over again, in long-winded monologues that pepper the entire film. In fact, the sermons are Dogma‘s biggest failing. In trying to point out the fallacies of Catholicism, Smith becomes just as preachy and sanctimonious as the institution he’s trying to lampoon. You can’t fight fire with fire in this case.
While any film that features George Carlin as a Bishop trying to introduce a new Christian icon (Jesus giving the thumbs-up) gets my vote, and Dogma is not short on laughs, too much of the film is flat. Jay’s sex talk is disarming at first, tired by the end. Alanis Morrissette as God? Snooze. The Butcher Boy already did Sinead O’Connor as the Virgin Mary. Now that takes balls.
Still, Dogma remains one of the funnier films of the year. But more importantly, whether you agree with Smith or not, you’re sure to be offended.
Alanis IS God. Pray.