Written and Directed by: Kevin Smith
Starring: Linda Fiorentino, Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Chris Rock, and 'Jay and Silent Bob'
Rating:8 out of 10
Deriven from Greek, the word Dogma means 'to think.' In writer/director Kevin Smith's new movie by the same name, audiences are asked to do exactly that while considering his provocative punches at God, the Catholic Church, and faith.
The creator of Chasing Amy and Clerks, Smith riddles Dogma with incendiary language and hilariously shocking presumptions, while at the same time posing serious philosophical questions about what it means to 'believe.' The result, said Smith, is "a bizarre mix of lowbrow jokes and highbrow concepts" that had the religious community crying blasphemy upon its release.
The plot centres on Bethany Sloan (Linda Fiorentino), a divorced Illinois resident working at an abortion clinic who is sent on a holy crusade by Metatron, the pasty-faced, mordant voice of God. Unable to have children, Bethany has become spiritually dejected, but in an attempt to retrieve her faith agrees to hunt down two fallen angels whose ploy to return to heaven risks the collapse of all existence.
Matt Damon and Ben Affleck play the guilty angels: Loki, a former angel of death turned conscientious objector, and his impish cohort Bartelby. Banished eternally from Heaven, they stumble upon a loophole in dogmatic law that would allow them to finally return home.
But if they succeed, their feat would prove that God is not infallible, natural order would crumble and the world would be unmade. To stop them, Bethany teams up with a couple of unsuspecting prophets named Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (played by Smith himself), who insistently beg sexual favours of her.
Add Chris Rock as the unheralded 13th apostle and Salma Hayek as a stripping Muse, and what follows is an outageous lark anchored by quick-witted dialogue full of obscure biblical references. Smith never misses a beat, maintaining a tempo that denies the viewer any moment of respite. Writing of this calibre hasn't been seen since Pulp Fiction.
In the middle of the film, however, Smith risks losing his audience. Perhaps trying to appeal to the traditional Hollywood format, he opts for a tired dramatic flare. While he tries to counter with a touch of self-parody (Silent Bob is shown crying with snot hanging from his moustache), the device fails.
Luckily, Smith rebounds from what could have been a sell-out ending and dunks the laughs with only moments remaining on the clock. In the end, comedy prevails, strengthening the message he wishes to impart: that faith involves as much spirited mirth as it does earnestness.
When God finally materialises as Canadian singer Alanis Morisette, his message is none more apparent. Asked "Why are we here?" the omnipotent almighty responds by tweaking Bethany's nose and frolicking off to a flower bed to do a handstand.
Indeed, God must have a sense of humour. Just look at the platypus.
22. May 2000 at 0:00 | Jason Markowsky