Combustible Celluloid
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With: Linda Fiorentino, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Chris Rock, Salma Hayek, Jason Lee, Alan Rickman, Jason Mewes, Kevin Smith, George Carlin, Alanis Morrisette
Written by: Kevin Smith
Directed by: Kevin Smith
MPAA Rating: R for strong language, including sex-related dialogue, violence, crude humor and some drug content
Running Time: 128
Date: 05/21/1999

Dogma (1999)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Barking 'Dogma'

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Writer/director Kevin Smith's new movie Dogma is bound to offend some people, and he knows it. That's why he opens up with a very funny disclaimer. But of course, the people who will be most offended by Dogma won't even see the movie, so the disclaimer is useless.

Dogma follows fallen angels Loki (Matt Damon) and Bartleby (Ben Affleck) who are destined to serve out eternity in Wisconsin. But they may have found a way out. If they can make it to a particular church in New Jersey and get themselves absolved of sin, they can die and get back into Heaven. But an angel of God, Metatron (Alan Rickman) appears before Bethany (Linda Fiorentino), who is a distant relative of Jesus Christ, and asks her to stop them. She's joined by Rufus, the "13th Apostle" (Chris Rock), and, of course, Jay and Silent Bob (Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith, who appear in all of Smith's films).

At times, Dogma feels like a B-movie, with fight scenes, monsters made of excrement, and exploding heads. And at other times it feels like a dorm room theological discussion. But at no time does it really gel as a movie. I got a kick out of it anyway, though. I loved seeing all these great character actors at work, and the discussions are rich and intelligent. It works more along the lines of something like My Dinner With Andre (1981) or Mindwalk (1991) than it does Clerks (1994).

DVD Details: In the jacket notes for the new Dogma Special Edition (1999, Columbia/Tristar, $29.95), Smith admits that he wanted to make a movie about God, but was afraid no one would come if it got too preachy. So he loaded it up with penis and dookie jokes to make it go down easier. This may be the first time a filmmaker has steered a message movie toward comedy instead of the other way around. Linda Fiorentino stars as Jesus Christ's distant niece (the film argues that Mary and Joseph probably had other children) who must journey to New Jersey to keep a pair of fallen angels (Matt Damon and Ben Affleck) from entering a church, being forgiven of their sins, and thus destroying the universe. Chris Rock, Selma Hayek, Alan Rickman, and, of course, Jay and Silent Bob (Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith) are along for the ride. The film presents dozens of dazzling, brilliant intellectual discussions around religion, but stops from time to time for lowbrow, bathroom-type jokes (the poo monster takes the cake). The mix can be a little dicey, but the overall concoction works tremendously.

The deluxe two-disc set contains two commentary tracks, one a great, goofy one with Smith, Mewes, Affleck, Jason Lee, and others, just having a good time and tearing it up. The second one, the "technical" one, deals with more serious issues, such as lighting. I prefer the first one. The disc contains an immense amount of outtakes and flubs (always my favorite), storyboards, and a few Easter eggs.

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