By Christopher Null
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.
Facts and Figures
In Theaters: Friday 12th November 1999
Box Office Worldwide: $30.7M
Distributed by: Lions Gate
Production compaines: Lions Gate
Rotten Tomatoes: 67%
Fresh: 84 Rotten: 42
Cast & Crew
Starring: Ben Affleck as Bartleby, Matt Damon as Loki, Linda Fiorentino as Bethany Sloane, Jason Mewes as Jay, Chris Rock as Rufus, Alan Rickman as Metatron, Jason Lee as Azrael, Salma Hayek as Serendipity, Kevin Smith as Silent Bob, Alanis Morissette as God, Bud Cort as John Doe Jersey, George Carlin as Cardinal Ignatius Glick, Brian O'Halloran as Grant Hicks, Janeane Garofalo as Liz, Walt Flanagan as Protestor #2, Scott Mosier as Smooching Seaman, Dwight Ewell as Kane