Now, I didn’t grow up in a super religious family. But we were religious enough that we would usually go to church on Sunday Mornings and I had to go to Sunday School until my junior year of high school. So, needless to say, watching a movie that constantly criticizes and mocks organized religion was quite enjoyable, and almost cathartic. A lot of movies or shows choose to mock or criticizes organized religion by doing the whole “God isn’t real, you’re stupid” routine. I find that approach to be pretty mean spirted and lazy. Dogma (1999) decides to take a better, more dignified route. With Kevin Smith’s signature whit and sense of humor and an all-star cast, Dogma finds its self to be rather enjoyable.
Dogma, follows two disgraced Angels (Matt Damon and Ben Affleck) who believe they found a way back into heaven. It also follows a woman (Linda Fiorentino) who is sent on a mission by Metatron (Alan Rickman) and is later joined by Jay and Silent Bob (Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith) and the 13th Apostle (Chris Rock). As one can imagine, the plot of this movie did not sit well with many religious organizations. Who can blame them when the movie says such blasphemous things as God is a woman (How could they?), Jesus wasn’t white (How ridiculous!), and much more? It’s pretty obvious that they were outraged without watching the actual movie. Because it is actually pretty respectful and posses some interesting theological ideas.
If you’ve never watched another Kevin Smith movie, his style revolves a lot around dialogue. Whether it’s witty banter or important information passing between characters. He writes it in a way that keeps the audience’s attention. I’d go into more detail, but I’m afraid I’d do it a disservice. Just watch some Kevin Smith films and you’ll immediately notice his writing style. Well… watch his early stuff. No one should ever watch Tusk (2014). However, what I will say is that Smith’s sense of humor is all over the film. I can’t imagine another filmmaker that could film a scene where Alan Rickman pulls down his pants to reveal he has no genitals. But Kevin Smith did it and everyone was just kind of like “That’s Kevin Smith for you!” There are also quite a few weed jokes. The movie doesn’t over do it on the weed jokes in my opinion but it definitely comes close. At risk of over explaining any of the jokes and ruining the film for anyone who hasn’t seen it, I’ll just say that the jokes that do land are pretty cleverly done. Personally, my favorite joke of the movie was the disclaimer at the beginning. Which now that I think about it, that being my favorite joke might be a negative against the film. Either way, the film begins with a black screen, then in white text, it reads this:
“Disclaimer: 1) a renunciation of any claim to or connection with; 2) disavowal; 3) a statement made to save one’s own ass. Though it’ll go without saying ten minutes or so into these proceedings, View Askew would like to state that this film is – from start to finish – a work of comedic fantasy, not to be taken seriously. To insist that any of what follows is incendiary or inflammatory is to miss our intention and pass undue judgment; and passing judgment is reserved for God and God alone (this goes for you film critics too…just kidding). So please – before you think about hurting someone over this trifle of a film, remember: even God has a sense of humor. Just look at the Platypus. Thank you and enjoy the show. P.S. We sincerely apologize to all Platypus enthusiasts out there who are offended by that thoughtless comment about the Platypi. We at View Askew respect the noble Platypus, and it is not our intention to slight these stupid creatures in any way. Thank you again and enjoy the show.”
I just find this very clever of Smith. The studio forced him to add the disclaimer and he decided to make his own twist on it. Although, all this clever writing would be for nothing if it wasn’t for the cast.
Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, George Carlin, Chris Rock, Jason Lee, Alanis Morissette, Salma Hayek and the late great Alan Rickman, all have a role in this movie. The cast just elevates the film in every possible way. If you look at that list and not a single name draws your attention then I want to know what movies you’ve been watching the past twenty years. This is an all-star cast. Even in 1999 it was an all-star cast. The scenes of Damon and Affleck’s characters bantering are all fantastic because their chemistry is palpable and the dialogue is really well done. Chris Rock is doing what he does best, wise cracking, and Alan Rickman as a sarcastic angel is inspired casting. I will say, I did roll my eyes when I saw that Smith gave his Jay and Silent Bob characters major roles but I ultimately enjoyed their inclusion in the movie.
Is Dogma a perfect film? No. It is very clearly and early film in Smith’s career. The editing is a bit plain, nothing interesting is done with it, and some of the dialogue comes across clunky. But that doesn’t make it bad. It is still a very fine and enjoyable way to spend two hours. That’s why I give it 6 ½ Alan Rickman’s out of 10.