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