This was my first introduction to Kevin Smith’s work, and I did not know what to make of this movie as a church going 16 year old. To further confuse the matter, I was shown Dogma by my ultra-conservative uncle. The entire time I remember thinking, “This is blasphemous, right?” But he was laughing, and my cousin who is two years younger than me was laughing, so I figured it must be OK because it’s making fun of Catholicism and we’re not Catholic. Right?
Yeah, it’s no surprise that Dogma ruffled more than a few feathers. The main character is an abortion clinic worker on a mission from God (a plot that’s popped up more than once so far), who is aided by two fouled mouthed prophets (Jay and Silent Bob!), the thirteenth apostle (who was left out of the Bible because he was black), and a muse with writer’s block (who’s also a stripper). If that’s not enough to shock one’s sensibilities, the rest of the story revolves around two banished angels (Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, both also extremely foul mouthed) who find a loophole to get back into heaven and are hell bent on proving God wrong, even if it means the destruction of everything. Oh, and did I mention that Jesus was married and had kids? Also, God is a woman. There’s so much fodder for the pearl clutchers in this movie, the first 10 minutes would probably give them a stroke.
But when you get to the heart of the story, it really makes some nice statements about religion and faith. Bethany, the abortion clinic worker, has lost her faith in God, but still attends mass each Sunday. She’s going through the motions without caring or feeling. How many people would say the same thing if they were being truly honest with themselves? Even those who count themselves as the faithful might still be missing the message, placing ritual and outward shows of faith above showing actual care and compassion for others.
Dogma is what Kevin Smith does best: blending crude humor with heartfelt emotion. This was the first time he was able to showcase his talents on a big scale. He certainly made himself a lightning rod for controversy in the process, but I don’t think he minds. Someone’s got to present the bigger questions and get people to have meaningful dialogue about issues surrounding organized religion. The argument can be made that this discussion would be better served by placing it in a less expletive ridden package, but that’s not Smith’s bag. Let him start things off with a loud bang. Others can take things from there.
This was the film Kevin Smith made after he had some street cred in the industry. He’d really only made a couple of indie flicks (Clerks, Chasing Amy), but this was his first attempt at something more mainstream. He has brought together all of his buddies whose careers he helped start, headlined by Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. They were now box office golden boys after their huge hit Good Will Hunting a few years earlier, and are front and centre for any of the promotional material made for this film. Smith has clearly called in a favour from these two and being the great guys they are they decided to help a friend out. Smith also brings together his old favourites Jason Lee, Brian O’Halloran, Jeff Anderson and Jason Mewes, but also adds some big name stars like Alan Rickman, Chris Rock, Salma Hayek, George Carlin and Linda Fiorentino. This is a stellar cast and it is the first time Smith has had this type of talent to work with. He does a good job of making this about religious dogma, even if the Catholic Church was really pissed at him. They protested this movie so much that Smith was forced to put a disclaimer at the beginning of the film that this is a work of fiction. Something that would be immediately obvious to anybody watching the film if they had any common sense.
The film begins with the Catholic Church wanting to raise their numbers at services and start a promotion where anybody who walks through their doors is cleansed of their sins. Two fallen angels (Damon and Affleck) decide to use this loophole to get back into heaven. If they were to succeed, it would prove God wrong and end all existence, so Heaven sends down Metatron (Rickman) to ask a woman with a special heritage, Bethany (Fioretino), to stop the two angels with the help of two prophets, Jay and Silent Bob (Mewes and Smith, in their signature roles). The trio make their way from Illinois to New Jersey, eventually picking up the 13th disciple, Rufus (Rock), and a muse (Hayek) to help them.
This is by far Smith’s most mainstream film. He has a cast of well-known actors and a solid plot, which he uses to form a very entertaining two hours. The film is funny and has the same kind of heart and random humour we have come to expect from Kevin Smith.