Review written by: Alex Sandell
What's the story?
Loki (Matt Damon) is an angel that got drunk and flicked off the Lord (Alanis Morissette). Bartleby (Ben Affleck) is the co-conspirator who indirectly got both himself, and Loki, permanently kicked out of Heaven for Loki's infraction. Cardinal Glick (George Carlin) is the Catholic determined to reinvigorate the Catholic church by eliminating sacred objects such as Christ on the Crucifix, and replacing them with things such as Christ winking, smiling and giving the "thumbs up" to fervent church-goers. In an attempt to get people to give the "new and improved" Roman Catholic Church a try, the Cardinal declares that anyone passing through the Church's doors will be forgiven of all of their sins. This creates a loophole which would allow the banished Loki and Batleby to pass through the doors and sneak back into Heaven, sin-free. The problem is, if this happens, God will be proven fallible, and all of existence will be erased. To stop this, God recruits a couple of prophets, the last descendant of Jesus and the missing 13th Apostle, Rufus (Chris Rock). Of course there are plenty of bad guys and nasty obstacles to get in the way of our heroes and their attempt to save everything that has ever been.
So how is it? (Get to the point, already)
It's a Kevin Smith film. If you've seen one, you pretty much know what to expect. If you haven't, you can expect something like this:
1.) Tons of talking.
2.) Lots of raunchy humor. Some funny. Some not.
3.) A bunch of extraneous dialogue centered around the word "fuck."
4.) A bunch of slow moments, between sex jokes, full of explanative dialogue to let you know what, exactly, is going on.
5.) People conversing about Star Wars.
Of course, Dogma, like Chasing Amy before it, expands upon the basic framework that Smith's first film, Clerks laid out with such perverted glee. Dogma is, without a doubt, Smith's most ambitious film, to date (and tied with Chasing Amy as his best). Unfortunately, with so many characters, subplots and philosophies all crammed into one script, it actually becomes too ambitious.
Dogma plays more like a book, rather than a movie. Before being allowed to figure out what's going on in the film on our own, some cast member explains it to us through simplistic dialogue that always seems vaguely out of place. Not only are we denied watching the plot unfold without being told that the plot is unfolding; we're never given a chance to learn who a character is, before that character, and his or her entire life history (being eternal, some of these characters have long stories to tell), is spelled out for us. This film would have benefited greatly by cutting its characters in half (not literally, ya violent bastards) and eliminating a few of the more inane subplots, so it could concentrate on being a film; not a two hour description of a film.
All that being said and done; there is a lot to like in Dogma. Originality shines through the trademark Kevin Smith moments and leaves you feeling like you saw something special and fresh. The cast obviously had a great time working with the (mostly) hilarious dialogue, and there are great performances all around. The script hits on a lot of sensitive topics without being grossly offensive (although I wish it would have been a more equal-opportunity offender, spreading its satirical comedic attacks over a larger playing field; possibly picking on a few other religions, in addition to Catholicism). There are some serious moments that actually border on sophisticated, and should get the audience thinking about more than where they're gonna get stoned after the movie's out. There's a wildly funny tribute to Indiana Jones, and a thinly-disguised slam on Disney World that should have you anti-corporate types cheering wildly.
Dogma is definitely worth the price of admission. It's sad that Smith didn't adhere to the "less is more" rule, and drop a few things to focus a bit more on the ones that remained. Maybe then, I wouldn't have to say that, in the end, it's a Kevin Smith film. I should have just left it at that, and saved all the typing.
What are you selling us here???
MILLER, MILLER, MILLER! I've never seen a movie promote a product in such an obvious manner. A neon "MGD" sign flashes on and off for about five minutes during one of the key scenes in the film. By the end, you'll either feel the need to drink a Miller Genuine Draft, or have the thought that you already downed ten.
If it won an Oscar, what would it be?
Most ambitious film since Being John Malkovich (which I have yet to review) - Dogma
On a scale of 1-10?
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Text ©(Copyright) 1999 Alex Sandell [All Rights Reserved]. If you copy this, without my permission, I'll send the wrath of Matt Damon down upon you!
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