on July 1, 2004
Some find it odd that some one of my most oft-repeated sayings when discussing religion in serious conversations comes from a Kevin Smith movie -- "I think it's better to have ideas. You can change an idea. Changing a belief is trickier." But I think that that line alone made this movie more than just a screwball comedy, controversial for the sake of being controversial. "Dogma" has some actual messages to get across, and it just happens to do it in a much more enjoyable way than, say, "The Passion."
The movie follows a disillusioned Catholic woman (Linda Fiorentino) on her journey, ordered by Metadron (Alan Rickman), to stop two fallen angels (Ben Affleck and Matt Damon) from reentering heaven, thus rendering God's word reversible and ending the world as we know it. Along the way, she encounters workers of God, prophets, and the missing thirteenth apostle (Chris Rock, my favorite part of the movie). I'm not going to reveal any more of the plot, except to say that Alanis Morissette makes a pretty unexpected (and funny, when you consider the absurdity of it) appearance.
The great thing about "Dogma" is that it always seems to know exactly what it's doing. There's parts when it's supposed to be screwball humor (which is most of it), and parts when it's supposed to be more serious. It blends these two perfectly together, and the result makes you laugh and think at the same time. Truthfully, not many movies can do that. Sure, some may watch it only for the appearance of Kevin Smith regulars Jay and Silent Bob (Jason Mewes and Smith himself, respectively) but if you look deeper, there's some real substance to this movie. It's not a bashing of the Catholic church; it's simply a movie that reminds you to ask questions. Highly recommended unless you're an easily offended Catholic.
on July 9, 2004
two angels,who were kicked out of heaven long ago,find a loop-hole so they may return.they need to go to new jersey.jay and silent bob go with the last zion,the 13th apostle rufis-left out of the bible because hes black,and the muse join forces to prevent this for if the angels get to heaven all creation will go poof!it stars matt damon and ben affleck as the 2 angels.alanis morriseete as god,chris rock is rufis and even george carlin as a bishop in the church.of the jay and silent bob movies it ranks second id say,but a lot of people say its the best also.it is the best religious based movie of all time!however,it will piss off all church goers.no naked chicks in this one either.chris rock,although normaly one of the most obnoxious racist bigots alive,actualy doesnt bitch too much in this one.he does make a good point that if there is a christian god-and lets face it theres probaly not-hes black.why would he be anything else?the world started in AFRica right?i abselutely love this movie!
on June 1, 2004
Director: Kevin Smith
Cast: George Carlin ... Cardinal Ignatius Glick
Matt Damon ... Loki
Ben Affleck ... Bartleby
Linda Fiorentino ... Bethany Sloane
Jason Lee ... Azrael
Alan Rickman ... Metatron
Jason Mewes ... Jay
Kevin Smith ... Silent Bob
Chris Rock ... Rufus
Salma Hayek ... Serendipity
Tagline: "Faith is a funny thing."
Plot Summary: Here goes. Two angels who have been cast from heaven hatch a plot to thwart God's plans. Um...meanwhile, a woman who has lost her faith is commissioned by God to stop them, and she learns a lot about herself and about God in the process.
Review and Comments: There, how'd I do? It's freaking HARD to summarize what happens in this movie. Going into it, I had NO IDEA what was going to happen in this movie, and I was totally shocked by what I saw. But we'll get to that in a minute. First...
Main Entry: com•e•dy
Inflected Form(s): plural -dies
Etymology: Middle English, from Middle French comedie, from Latin comoedia, from Greek kOmOidia, from kOmos revel + aeidein to sing -- more at ODE
1 a : a medieval narrative that ends happily b : a literary work written in a comic style or treating a comic theme
2 a : a drama of light and amusing character and typically with a happy ending
3 : a ludicrous or farcical event or series of events
4 a : the comic element: humorous entertainment
Now. When I pay money to watch a comedy, I expect that perhaps serious things will happen, but that overall, this things will be portrayed in a humorous light and that the proceedings will go down easy, even when said comedy contains things I probably shouldn't laugh at-i.e. things most people would find offensive. I expected to find lots of things that most people find offensive in this movie, since I knew it dealt with religion and most people totally lack a sense of humor when it comes to religion. When I was discussing this movie with someone who told me that it might offend me, I said that I could handle it, because, after all, "God has a sense of humor." I was highly amused to find that exact declaration at the beginning of this movie, in the utterly hilarious series of disclaimers. I thought I was ready for whatever happened in this movie.
Is everyone familiar with the term "Dark Comedy"? This term regards events that are serious, but presented in such a way that they elicit laughter...often in a "You have to laugh or you'll cry" sense. Well, if that's the definition of a dark comedy, then Dogma is a pitch black comedy of the darkest kind. There are scores of violent onscreen murders, there's angel dismemberment, and there's a scary performance that moved me to declare, "Wow, Ben Affleck can act." In other words, there are tons of highly disturbing things that happen that I didn't expect, and I'd just like to warn people right now that while this is an intensely entertaining and overall fun film, there are some downright freaky moments that nearly caused me to have a heart attack because I wasn't expecting them. Be forewarned.
I'm familiar with the journey story outline taken here...a character embarks on a journey, gathers friends along the way, learns some kind of a lesson through the proceedings, and is a changed person when the movie ends. In this movie, most of the lessons are about faith; about believing in something you cannot see. Within the mythology of the film, no denomination or church has gotten everything right about God, so it's fun to watch the different reactions when the characters learn the truth about what God is really like (and the complex heavenly infrastructure, complete with angels and demons and...Muses? From Greek Mythology? Ok...).
I have a very strong faith in God (a faith that has helped me through many difficult times, and a faith that is so strong it moves me to capitalize the "G" in God even when I try not to), and because of my faith I can fully relate to the quandaries faced by the lead character Bethany. God can be cruel. God's plan is hard to understand. Life often doesn't make sense. And the one that people often refuse to say...God is freaking WEIRD. This movie captures that weird spirit perfectly. The quest that is given to Bethany is weird, and the companions that she picks up along the way on this journey are even weirder.
But central to all the weird happenings, the movie has a good heart. The things Bethany learns as she proceeds along this journey and the way she comes to a realization of God's love are moving. The whacky moments are plentiful...just about everything that happens is weird in one way or another. And the action is top notch, keeping me on the edge of my seat as I was drawn into this world. My head filled with a seemingly endless stream of questions that kept me guessing...Will the demons prevail? Will the angels succeed in thwarting God's plan, thus proving God fallible and destroying the premise upon which the world is built-that God can't be wrong? How many people will have to die strangely disturbing violent deaths before this film isn't classified as a comedy by most video stores? I was so drawn into what was happeniong that when the movie finally ended, I was still thinking about the ideas it had presented. Most people don't talk about this this, but in the bible, lots of things happen that make no sense, and people are forced to trust in God even when they don't have answers. That's what this is about, and I loved seeing it presented in this way.
In fact, I loved every minute of this movie...whether I was laughing or crying or covering my eyes or gasping in disgust. This movie surprised me so thoroughly that my first thought after finishing it was to watch it over again to see what I'd missed the first time. I absolutely loved it, even as I realize why it offended so many people. So maybe I can't watch it with most of my friends. I love it anyway.
The Bottom Line: I repeat: God has a sense of humor. So do I. This movie is indescribably weird in every possible way (and in a few ways that I once thought were impossible) but it's engaging, exciting, and hilarious as well.
on April 8, 2004
The original meaning of the word was "that which seems good", and hence it was applied by classical authors as a technical term either to the distinctive tenets of the various philosophical schools or to the decrees of public authorities.
So, what does this have to do with the movie? Ironic as it seems for such a bizarre film, it all turns on a minor dogmatic point -- accepting that Roman Catholic dogma is the operative framework for the entire existence of the universe (something even I have yet to meet ANYONE who holds true), a logical inconsistency would render the universe inoperative, and thus it would blink out of existence.
In an attempt to 'update and popularise' Catholicism, a bishop in New Jersey (George Carlin, of all people) introduces a new campaign that includes a papal indulgence, which will absolve those who walk through the archway of a particular church. The angels discover this, and are determined to exploit this papal pronouncement to their benefit -- in dogmatic terms, whatever the pope says on earth is binding in heaven (not quite, but that's what the movie presents) -- and thus God cannot refuse them re-entry. This sets up the logical problem.
The heavens charge a particular woman Bethany, (Linda Fiorentino), who turns out to be the last descendent of Jesus Christ's family (of course, the Bible left out the details of his family), with stopping the angels from reaching the church. In the course of her charge, she encounters the Voice of God (Alan Rickman) who appears as a flaming, burning-bush type of phenomenon, and promptly uses a fire-extinguisher to put out the flames.
Azrael (Jason Lee), a minor leader of demons, has command of agents to try to stop the Last Scion from stopping the angels. Why? Well, I cannot tell you. This would give away too much of the film. But, suffice it to say, the forces of evil seem to want the angels to prove God wrong (or, at least some of the forces of evil want this). By the way, I am inclined to agree with this demon on at least one point -- central air conditioning is one of the greatest things in creation
Rufus (Chris Rock), the thirteenth apostle (also left out of the Bible, because of his race) appears to the Last Scion and the Prophets to help them in their quest.
Bartleby, who had normally been the voice of reason against Loki's brash fire-and-brimstone approach (well, he was the Angel of Death, after all), becomes upset at the efforts being used to stop them, and turns into a Satan-esque figure bent on opposing God.
But, where is God? We find out that God is missing (something that many in many religions can relate to much of the time, alas), only to discover that God likes to take the occasional holiday. The angels and the choirs of heaven are worried that Bartleby and Loki will succeed in destroying the universe while God is away from his(her) desk.
Oh, ye of little faith. God in the end, in the form of Alanis Morrisette, does show up to save the day, in more ways than one.
Lots of people were very offended by this film (just as some might be offended by this writing!). It does poke fun (scathing, caustic wit is more like it, in truth) at religion in general, Christianity in specific, and the Roman Catholic church in particular. As a priest, I thought there were some questionable scenes and would have preferred a little less foul language; but overall, I thought the premise and the storyline were creative and inventive. I'm quite surprised, actually, that it became a controversy -- I would never use this film for a catechism class, but my fellow seminarians and I had quite productive discussions talking about the topics brought up in the film.
With a fair share of language and violence, this film is not for school age viewers. As a focus point for discussing religion or the growing problems of society, this film will give abundant fuel. This film is uniquely weird, but filled with brains and thought provoking in-your-face statements. A certain cult-candidate.****
I admit that I was curious to check out the movie Dogma after seeing the film and the actor Alan Rickman referenced in the book Metatron; Invoking The Angel of God’s Presence by Rose Vanden Eynden (due to Alan Rickman as being referenced playing the part of Metatron). This movie was very entertaining to watch and had an all star cast. The film centers around a group of people and supernatural spirits that are being part of a plan to carry out the battle of good versus evil. They also have to stop two angels named Loki (Matt Damon) and Bartleby (Ben Affleck) who are tired of their earth based lives in Wisconsin and yearn to return to the heavenly realms. Some of the other main characters of the film are Linda Florentino as Bethany Sloane, Chris Rock as Rufus the 13th apostle, Salma Hayek as Serendipity, Jason Lee as Azrael, Kevin Smith as Silent Bob, a brief appearance of Alanis Morissette as God, Janeane Garofolo as a coworker of Bethany Sloane and obviously more actors/actresses are also in the film. There are some shocking but debatable discussion scenes in the movie such as when the 13th apostle falls from the sky and some of the characters are portrayed having to show ‘proof’ why they are genderless. Additionally, I am glad to have had the chance to watch Dogma. However, the movie sends a message that a being (whether human or celestial) is pretty much stuck in whatever place they reside in. Yes, I understand that it is only entertainment, but I have been fortunate to have been exposed to reading material that implies that a spirit can always move up from where they are (even if they have already crossed over and temporarily ended up in the lower realms). I would rather avoid discussing further such a controversial topic on this movie review that belongs on another post (especially since Dogma is an enjoyable movie), but I have to credit exposure to multiple afterlife books for contributing to my ideas on the belief that spirits can move up even in the afterlife.
We start out with an old man in front of a skeeball location getting the snot beat out of him, then a flash to the story. Evidently two ejected angels sent to Wisconsin for the duration have found a loophole that will allow them to return to Heaven unscathed. Seems that no one from above or below really wants this to happen. So several beings with their own agenda are coercing Bethany Sloane (Linda Fiorentino) to do their dirty work as she unknowingly is the only one qualified.
Will Bethany be able to stop the two angels before it is too late? Or is there a sinister unnamed force helping the fallen angels to succeed?
Some of the actors are just coasting through the movie (probably to pick up some spending cash). But Alan Rickman is excellent as usual and plays the indignant part to the hilt. See him again in “Galaxy Quest” made the same year.
Defiantly designed for certain genre tastes (sort of a cross between Ghost Busters and Monty Python with a little Arthur Miller tossed in.) I personally found it a tad too potty mouthed and over obsessed with sex. Other than that it brings up good premises and a few eternal questions. This is defiantly on of those films that need to be viewed more than once to pick up on the nuances’
The Creation of the World and Other Business.
January 18, 2006
on June 19, 2004
I should probably start this review by saying that Dogma was forced on me by my best friend, an avowed Kevin Smith fanatic. Having only seen Chasing Amy before (and enjoying it a great deal), I was quite ready to dip into a movie by the same writer. It stirred up a fair bit of controversy at the time, although having watched it I can say it's not actually that controversial. Indeed, it's embracement of all 'ideas' comes almost perilously close to schmaltz. Saying that, this is exactly the kind of screwball humour I love. See, there are two disgraced angels (Damon and Affleck) who find a dogmatic loophole through which they can re-enter Heaven, thus ending the world by proving God to be fallible. So it falls upon Linda Fiorentino's lapsed Catholic, as recruited by The Voice of God (Alan Rickman), to put a stop to their dastardly plans. Along the way she's aided by prophets (Jay and Silent Bob), the forgotten 13th apostle (Chris Rock) and a muse (Salma Hayek). All against Jason Lee's horn-headed baddie.
The humour comes thick and fast, with some absolutely classic scenes involving Damon's Loki exacting vengeance on a board meeting, Alanis Morissette's God doing handstands after defeating the apocalypse and some very very brilliant pop culture references. The acting is also crucial, with particular stand-outs including Damon's most freewheeling role yet, Fiorentino treading a fine line between the serious and the comical and Affleck proving that with the right script and a role that doesn't reek of self-satisfaction (Pearl Harbour anyone?) he can be a very likeable, good, performer. It of course goes without saying that the supporting cast is uniformally excellent.
Still, the script does pander to vulgarity several times, which you'll either lap up or resent given the nuance, interesting humour of the rest of the movie. Smith also has a slight tendency to over-talk his script, as if to constantly to remind us that this is a satire and not something to be taken seriously. Whilst he points out in an ironic foreword that this should be evident ten minutes in, he still feels the need to hammer it in a little too much. Saying that though, the serious elements of the story are mostly done very well, thanks in no part to Fiorentino. Destined to become some kind of cult classic among Smith fans, this is a much smarter and funnier comedy than any of the one I've seen this year yet. So, whilst not brilliant perhaps, at the very least Dogma is witty, vibrant and original.
on June 1, 2004
This is a smart comedy about religion and the Church. We find a great cast of different stars playing God, angels, demons, muses, prophets and apostles. I can understand that for some people religion is a very serious issue and that these individuals may take offense in this movie. However, if you do no belong in this group, I highly recommend you to watch this film, since I am sure you will have a great time.
The Church is in a renewal process and seeking to attract people to enlarge its flock. Some of the changes involve revamping the depressing image in the crucifix for a smiling, winking and thumbs-up Christ. Also, a Church in New Jersey decreed a day in which everyone that passes through its gates will be cleansed of all sins and forgiven by God. Loki (Matt Damon) and Bartleby (Ben Affleck) are two angles that have incurred in God's wrath and therefore were expelled from heaven and condemned to live in Wisconsin from the rest of their eternal lives. They see this as an opportunity to be forgiven and allowed to return to heaven.
The path to their destination is not an easy one though, since by achieving their forgiveness they would prove God wrong, and existence will cease because it is based on the fact that God is always right. Therefore, Loki's and Bartleby's journey affects a large number of people and other mystic figures. There are two sides to the conflict, those that want to prevent them from getting to their destination, and those that want to help them and create chaos. Among muses, demons, the thirteenth apostle and a Golgothan, which by the way is super gross, we find a woman named Bethany (Linda Fiorentino). She is at a tough stage in her life and has almost lost her faith, but is requested by Metathron, the voice of God, to stop the two angels in their quest.
The way in which the film questions some of the beliefs of religion is smart and funny, and the talented cast help make this a very pleasant experience. For example, Chris Rock in his role of the thirteenth apostle is hilarious, showing his usual sense of humor with quick and witty jokes. I also found interesting the questioning of God's sex and Jesus race, which I think spices up several scenes throughout the movie and allows for some very funny moments.
on April 26, 2004
A friend asked me a while back if I'd ever seen a Kevin Smith movie. As much as I try to keep up with cinematic trends, I had to admit I hadn't quite gotten around to Mr. Smith's work so far. So recently, I made a point to pick one up. Freud says there are no accidents, so does that mean that I unconsciously sat down to watch DOGMA in the wee hours of a Sunday morning before I realized it was, in fact, EASTER SUNDAY? And if so, does that mean, I'm merely irreverent--or completely sacreligious. This while everyone else is trundling off to take in THE PASSION. Yikes! I scare myself.
Oh, wait. I read what others have posted and am somewhat relieved. Smith himself does not view the film as sacrilege. It's his funny Valentine to the Church itself. (Don't expect flowers in return, Kev, but at least a few of us lapsed get your drift). And, hey, as even Madonna is quick to point out, once a Catholic always a Catholic.
It doesn't really matter that the theological ramblings of some of the characters are kind of sophomoric, even freshmanic. Even you've ever had an all-night theological bull session in college, you'll relate. And it doesn't really matter that the characters who most often indulge in the bull throwing are in fact angels who should probably know better. After millenia of being banished to the third ring of Wisconsin, how can you expect much else? And why are these angels named after the Norse god of thunder and a Herman Melville's less than motivated scrivener?
In other words, this movie really is a movie of ideas. Whether these ideas are really all that profound is another matter. Can Church law actually be twisted in such a way that the very universe unravels? Can God possibly look like Alanis Morissette--and sound like a Wookie? These are questions that won't keep anyone up at night, but the movie is just brainy enough to let the eggheads and the budding theologians in on the overall fun.
And it is fun. Good cast, pretty good script--dialog that is mostly sharp (with some clunker lines interspersed among the gems). Unfortunately, as the amazon.com critic above observes, the movie suffers due to direction that is only fair to middlin'. It took me a while to realize that the actors weren't off, so much as the pacing. A lot of the dialog seems rushed. Linda Fiorentino is normally such a natural, but in many scenes her dialog seems alternately rushed and repetitive. Eventually, it dawned on me that she (and Alan Rickman and other normally very good actors) had been indeed been "on," but the camerawork, the choppy delivery of lines and overall pacing--all directorial concerns--contributed to the impression that the actors weren't doing all they could. (Actually, they were probably doing MORE, actually working harder than usual.) I mean, Chris Rock should always be slam dunk funny. Here he has his great and not-so-great moments.
So the film remains something of a shaggy dogma story. And if you keep that in mind, you'll likely find the film a lot of fun. I don't know how it fits in with his entire oeuvre, but it piqued my interest to check out more. Kevin Smith is an original talent. And besides, Jay and Silent Bob are cool guys.
on April 25, 2004
I wish I could rate this two ways. I believe it should get 5+ stars for it's illumination of one modern Catholic's mindset, but must give it 1 star for how wrongheaded the enterprise was written and directed. The director, Kevin Smith, has called this film "...my love-letter to God and to faith - which is about the only thing we really truly have in life."
This should surprise a great number of the critics of this film who wrongly believe Smith is slamming the Church. He further states, "Faith is the glue that holds us together and binds us (kind of like the Force). It's something we all have in common - even if you're not a religious person." Clearly this shows he is NOT the faithless iconoclast as portrayed by the good-hearted but misguided efforts of the Catholic League, but rather this is a man whose movie is a statement of his faith as he understands it. And while it is intentionally satirical of many things, if viewed not as a slam but as a love-letter, a well catechized Catholic can gain some pretty incredible insights from it.
I'm not promoting this movie in regards to how well it expresses the Catholic Faith - far from it. It is wildly inaccurate and largely ignorant of history or of the arguments that underlie fundamental beliefs of (most) Catholics. But there is a payoff.
Watch this movie and realize something: this is a product of a mind formed by a lifetime of Catholic schools. Smith himself has said that the inspiration for this movie came from a nun who taught religion.
This man's imagination was formed by those whose grasp of the truth of the gospels and the church were as murky and erroneous as they were (doubtless) devout and sincere. It's simply bad modernist theology played out on the big screen. This is perhaps the key to Smith's confusion on the part of orthodox Catholics who take umbrage to his opus. He isn't the devil incarnate, a ridiculing and blasphemous jerk who's trying to take a stab at the religion and faith of millions. Rather, Smith simply doesn't get it. And though we are all responsible for our own actions, take heed of this example and feel pity for this man who has been sold a theological bill of goods that doesn't quite add up in the light of day. See this film; discuss with others its merits good and bad. But above all, make sure you know what your own children are taught as regards their faith. Don't depend on a school's clout or reputation - see what's going on with your own eyes. Finally, pray not only for Smith, but for schools that market themselves as Catholic. Pray that they become capable once again of teaching leaders of tomorrow like Smith to once again be unabashedly, unashamedly, and unambiguously Catholic.