KEVIN SMITH RETROSPECTIVE REVIEW: DOGMA (1999)

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Bethany: Wait a minute. Christ. You know Christ?
Rufus: Knew him? Shit, nigga owes me 12 bucks!

Director: Kevin Smith

Writer: Kevin Smith

Starring: Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Linda Fiorentino, Chris Rock, Alan Rickman, Jason Lee, Salma Hayek, Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith

Synopsis: An abortion clinic worker with a special heritage is called upon to save the existence of humanity from being negated by two renegade angels trying to exploit a loop-hole and reenter Heaven.

Dogma is the fourth directorial effort from Kevin Smith following his Jersey Trilogy of Clerks, Mallrats and Chasing Amy. Dogma actually continues in the same Universe as recurring characters Jay and Silent Bob continue to have adventures.

Dogma is kind of a mix of all Smith’s previous films. There’s the potty humour of Mallrats, the witty dialogue of Clerks and the controversy and independent spirit of Chasing Amy. The film is entertaining for fans of Smith however it does get bogged down by heavy theology based expositional dialogue and a pretty uninteresting protagonist. What saves the film is its excellent cast of supporting players such as Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Janeane Garofalo, Chris Rock, Alan Rickman, Jason Lee, Salma Hayek, Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith. Linda Fiorentino seems miscast as the lead character Bethany. According to the commentary she was difficult to work with.

The film revolves around Bethany a Catholic who has lost her faith in God after losing her husband due to a miscarriage. She still attends church but has no passion for being there. She works at an abortion clinic with Liz (the deadpan Janeane Garofalo) and wonders what her purpose is. She is soon visited by the angel Metatron (hilariously played by Alan Rickman) who sets her on a journey to stop two archangels Bartleby (Ben Affleck) and Loki (Matt Damon) from entering a Church which is trying to get more people by introducing the Buddy Christ which in turn would prove God doesn’t exist and end the world. She is sceptical at first but everything Metatron says becomes true so she sets on her journey and along the way meets an array of angels and demons including the great Chris Rock as Rufus the thirteenth apostle, Jason Lee as the demonic Azrael, Salma Hayak as the muse Serendipity, and the two prophets Jay and Silent Bob (Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith). All of these supporting characters save the film and have great comical moments. The film plays like a comic book (a trope of Smith) as the protagonist goes on a journey to save the world filled with lovable characters. Especially the introduction scene of Jay and Silent Bob as Comic Book type heroes as they save Bethany from the three Hockey slaying boys/demons and continue throughout the film showing Kevin Smith’s obsession with comic books and turning them into Bluntman & Chronic comic book characters from Chasing Amy. Ben Affleck and Matt Damon are excellent as the two arch-angels wreaking wrath on the sinful. The scene where they interrogate a Disney inspired company called Mooby’s featuring men who have all sinned their way to the top strongly reflects the views of these types of men in 2018 especially with the #metoo movement at the moment and the controversy surrounding John Lasseter and Harvey Weinstein (who produced this film!)

At the time the film was very controversial for its depiction of Christianity however Smith who is a Christian said he was only trying to make a fun parody of religion. In the 90’s it seemed Smith wanted the controversy as other independent filmmakers such as Quentin Tarantino and Paul Thomas Anderson were being praised for their visions. Smith was somewhere in the middle he was making entertaining dialogue heavy pictures but his visual style was being criticised and he wasn’t having box office success or award love as his peers were. The more people discussed this film the more interest it got. Especially with Matt Damon and Ben Affleck coming off their success of Good Will Hunting and Chris Rock beginning to blow up after his time on SNL and his successful stand up specials. The film was a success making $30 million off a $10 million budget but it isn’t as regarded as Clerks or Chasing Amy. It could have made an interesting new trilogy for Smith because the film seems overstuffed with great characters and strong ideas. Today it could be a great Netflix series. Looking back the controversy wasn’t deserved however for strict Christians there is a lot of blasphemy as Smith says Jesus was black, Joseph and Mary had more kids and Chris Rock as the thirteenth Apostle however if you have a sense of humour you can look over these things.

Dogma isn’t Smith’s best film but I think it is very entertaining and had potential to be something greater. Perhaps with a better director or as a series.

B

Highlights:
– Kevin Smith-isms; Cameos from Brian O’Halloran as the News Reporter, Scott Mosier (Producer), Hockey, Comic Books, the introduction of the Mooby food chain, and Jay and Silent Bob

KEVIN SMITH RETROSPECTIVE FILM REVIEW: CHASING AMY (1997)

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Silent Bob: So there’s me and Amy, and we’re all inseparable, right? Just big time in love. And then four months down the road, the idiot gear kicks in, and I ask about the ex-boyfriend. Which, as we all know, is a really dumb move. But you know how it is: you don’t wanna know, but you just have to, right? Stupid guy bullshit. So, anyway, she starts telling me about him… how they fell in love, and how they went out for a couple of years, and how they lived together, her mother likes me better, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah… and I’m okay. But then she drops the bomb on me, and the bomb is this: it seems that a couple of times, while they were going out, he brought some people to bed with them. Ménage à trois, I believe it’s called. Now this just blows my mind, right? I mean, I am not used to this sort of thing. I mean, I was raised Catholic, for God’s sake.
Jay: Saint Shithead.
[Silent Bob elbows him; Jay motions as if to start a fight]
Silent Bob: Do something.
[to Holden]
Silent Bob: So I’m totally weirded out by this, right? And then I just start blasting her. Like… I don’t know how to deal with what I’m feeling, so I figure the best way is by calling her a slut, right? And tell her she was used. I’m… I’m out for blood. I really wanna hurt this girl. I’m like, “What the fuck is your problem?”, right? And she’s just all calmly trying to tell me, like, it was that time and it was that place and she doesn’t think she should apologize because she doesn’t feel that she’s done anything wrong. I’m like, “Oh, really?” That’s when I look her straight in the eye, I tell her it’s over. I walk.
Jay: Fuckin’ A!
Silent Bob: No, idiot. It was a mistake. I didn’t hate her. I wasn’t disgusted with her. I was afraid. At that moment, I felt small, like… like I’d lacked experience, like I’d never be on her level, like I’d never be enough for her or something like that, you know what I’m saying? But, what I did not get, she didn’t care. She wasn’t looking for that guy anymore. She was… she was looking for me, for the Bob. But, uh, by the time I figure this all out, it was too late, man. She moved on, and all I had to show for it was some foolish pride, which then gave way to regret. She was the girl, I know that now. But I pushed her away. So, I’ve spent every day since then chasing Amy… so to speak.

Director: Kevin Smith

Writer: Kevin Smith

Synopsis: Holden and Banky are comic book artists. Everything’s going good for them until they meet Alyssa, also a comic book artist. Holden falls for her, but his hopes are crushed when he finds out she’s a lesbian.

Chasing Amy is Kevin Smith’s third film and possibly his best. After the hit independent Clerks and the extremely disappointing Mallrats, Smith went back to his indie roots and made a personal, touching and often witty romantic comedy. With shades of Annie Hall, Kevin Smith used his real life relationship with Joey Lauren Adams as the template to make a film that was more than low-brow humour found in his previous film. The film is impressive for its realism of male and female sexuality and dealing with relationships in the 90’s.

The film revolves around Holden McNeil (Ben Affleck) and Banky Edwards (Jason Lee) two best friends who created the comic book Bluntman and Chronic (based on Jay and Silent Bob). Banky is the Inker and Holden is the writer. They are a good team and have a successful comic book career. That is until Holden meets Alyssa Jones (Joey Lauren Adams), a charming, sexy and fun fellow comic book writer. Holden and Alyssa immediately hit it off although Banky becomes jealous of his best friends new potential love interest. Holden is head over heels immediately and is eager to meet her again when she invites him to a bar. Unfortunately for Holden he soon becomes aware that she is gay. Alyssa notices his disappointment but wants to be his friend and enjoys being with him. After hanging out with each other for a while Holden can’t keep his feelings back anymore and confesses his love for her. Alyssa gives in and they get together. However with her sexual history and Holden’s mainstream idea of love he can’t get over her past and things begin to fall apart.

This is a very touching and heartfelt film and a huge improvement in filmmaking from Smith. Ben Affleck is great in this film. His acting is superb and he really rises to his leading man status of today after his awful role in Mallrats. Joey Lauren Adams is adorable as Alyssa Jones, she’s every comic book lover’s fantasy. She’s sexy, charming, she’s a comic book writer with knowledge of comic book history too. Her voice is also so sexy. It’s too bad she didn’t have a better career after this film. Ben Affleck and Joey Lauren Adams have amazing chemistry and their characters relationship is sweet, charming, realistic and ultimately heartbreaking.

Jason Lee plays a similar character from Mallrats. However he has better chemistry with Ben Affleck than Jeremy London (where is he now?). His scenes with Affleck depict a really strong male friendship that can sometimes become effected by a new girlfriend. Their relationship follows Smith’s familiar tropes of two male protagonists who are best friends (usually man-boys) who don’t understand women; one more sensitive and emotional the other cocky and amusing. However in this film it feels a lot more real and personal than the relationships in Clerks and Mallrats.

The film has other common Kevin Smith tropes including pop culture references including comic books, Star Wars, TV Shows and films. Characters referring to, going to or playing Hockey. Also keeping in the same Universe of Clerks we have a scene at Quick Stop Groceries and a Jay and Silent Bob cameo.

Chasing Amy is a sweet and personal film from Smith which shows a maturity as a filmmaker. Ben Affleck, Joey Lauren Adams and Jason Lee also help lift the material with great performances. It is not as funny as his previous films but Smith’s skills with dialogue is still very strong and the plot flows with great twists and turns. This is my favourite film of Smith’s thus far.

A+

Highlights:
– Dwight Ewell as Hooper X a black gay comic writer pretending to be a strong Black Activist, especially his opening scene at a Comic Book Convention.
– The idea of a comic book called Bluntman and Chronic based on Jay and Silent Bob

KEVIN SMITH RETROSPECTIVE FILM REVIEW: MALLRATS (1995)

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Brodie: My Grandmother always used to say “why buy the cow, when you can get the sex for free”.
T.S. Quint: She didn’t!
Brodie: All the time, before she became a lesbian on her 60th Birthday, but that’s besides the point.

Director: Kevin Smith

Writer: Kevin Smith

Synopsis: Both dumped by their girlfriends, two best friends seek refuge in the local mall.

Mallrats, Keven Smith’s sophomore feature is a steep drop in quality from the promise of his indie hit feature film Clerks. The plot, characters and jokes are all very lame and it is in some ways structurally very similar to Clerks. Two best friends; one is emotional and depressed with his life and the other is cocky, has witty dialogue and argues with his friend for not “manning” up and enjoying his life. However compared to Clerks these characters don’t have Dante and Randal’s chemistry. Jason Lee is a scene stealer similar to Jeff Anderson’s performance as Randal and he is the best thing in the movie. Jason Lee of course went on to a successful comedy career on screen and television and this breakout performance proves why. Jeremy London however is extremely bland and looks like he was picked out of a generic 90’s sitcom. He in no way compares to Brian O’Halloran’s performance as Dante in Clerks (Brian O’Halloran has a cameo in the conclusion of the film and you miss his presence from Clerks he should’ve been in this film more) even though he is his surrogate in this film. Another familiar trope from Clerks has our two protagonists spend a day in one location. He swapped a convenience store to a Mall. It parallels Kevin Smith’s career at this point as he made a small independent film based in a small convenience store and now he is more popular as a filmmaker has a larger budget with access to better actors and behind the scenes crew and he has his characters wonder around a giant Mall instead of being stuck in a small convenience store. It’s like a kid with bigger and better toys than his old broken ones but still plays the same game with them. Although he had a larger budget and professional actors he seems to be repeating the same beats as Clerks and the film suffers for it. It looks a lot better than Clerks, the actors and settings are also better however the overall plot arcs, jokes and characters are all quite boring and bland compared to the protagonists and bizarre customers in Clerks.

The film follows TS Quint (Jeremy London) who is dumped by his girlfriend Brandi (the beautiful Claire Forlani) because her father doesn’t like him and he is too clingy and wants to get married right away. Already a poor plot opener. TS’s best friend Brodie (Jason Lee) is also dumped by his girlfriend (Shannen Doherty, in her hot 90’s phase) for being a loser who lives downstairs in his Mom’s house and plays video games and reads comic books all day. The film does reference comic books and Star Wars a lot more having Kevin Smith’s passions start to filter through his films more. The two friends decide to spend their day in the Mall to get their minds off their dramas. Once they get to the mall they meet a few interesting characters including William (Ethan Suplee) a guy staring at a Magic eye image desperately trying to see the Sail boat everyone is seeing, Gwen (Joey Lauren Adams) who is just there to be cute and pretty and ogled by the male characters but nothing else, Shannon played by Ben Affleck in one of his earliest roles at his most unlikable and sleaziest, Tricia (Renee Humphrey) a 15 year old girl who is doing a research project on sex with different men and finally the link to the Kevin Smith Universe – Jay and Silent Bob (Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith). I love Jay and Silent Bob however they seem a bit muted down in this film especially Jay compared to his foul mouth in Clerks and future installments he seems to be trying to play a proper character instead of a fun side character. There plot in the film is also pretty lame as they are asked to stop a dating game show run by Brandi’s father Svenning (played by Michael Rooker in a scene chewing bizarre performance) so TS can win back Brandi.

If you haven’t seen Clerks and you were a young teenager in the 90’s you would probably find some enjoyment in this film. However looking back today in 2018 after following Kevin Smith’s career this is definitely one of his lowest points in his film-making career.

D

Highlights:
– Stink Palm
– Stan Lee’s cameo and possibly his best performance in a film.
– The homages to Batman and Star Wars.
– The Comic Book Cover Artwork for each character in the opening credits
– All the comic book references and the representation of comic nerds that aren’t glass wearing skinny little boys they can be tough and cocky like Brodie. Don’t forget this was the 90’s when comics in the cinemas were portrayed as kiddie stuff. Kevin Smith treated it seriously and look where we are today.