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movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Dogma

Starring: Ben Affleck, Chris Rock
Director: Kevin Smith
Rated: R
RunTime: 125 Minutes
Release Date: November 1999
Genres: Comedy, Religion

*Also starring: George Carlin, Matt Damon, Linda Fiorentino, Salma Hayek, Jason Lee, Alan Rickman, Janeane Garofalo, Alanis Morissette, Jason Mewes, Kevin Smith

Review by AlexI
3½ stars out of 4

Many things have been said about Kevin Smith's latest film and not everything was good. This movie has created more controversy than 'Fight Club'. It has been cursed by the Vatican and dozens of hate letters were sent to its creator. It truly is provocative, constantly on the edge, but also wonderfully refreshing. This is one of the kind -- a magnificent black comedy which is savagely funny and imaginatively philosophic. It is witty, accurate, fast paced and possibly one of the best satires in the history of the genre.

Starting with an apology that goes on for almost ten minutes, explaining to the audience that all characters and events are fictions and are not ment to be taken seriously, the story slowly takes shape. Loki (Matt Damon) is an angel that got drunk and flicked off the Lord (among others 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 in church dogma that will allow them to end their eternal exile in Wisconsin and reenter the pearly gates of Heaven, sin-free. The problem is, if this happens, God will be proven fallible, and all of existence will be erased. With God having been put out of commission while on a holiday, the fate of the world and all else rests with efforts of a ragtag bunch: Metatron (Alan Rickman ), the angel who serves as the voice of God; Rufus (Chris Rock), the bitter, heretofore unknown 13th Apostle; a heavenly Muse Serendipity (Salma Hayek); a pair of familiar Prophets by the name Jay and Silent Bob (Jason Mewes and Smith himself); and the reluctant key figure in thwarting the renegade duo, Bethany (Linda Fiorentino), who has lost her faith in God, when a heralding angel appears in her bedroom and declares her the last descendant of Jesus and the potential savior of humanity. Of course there are plenty of bad guys and nasty obstacles to get in the way of our heroes and their attempt to save the past, present and future.

"Dogma" is never becomes boring or predictable. It is savagely funny with its many humorous lines, such as the dialoge between the messanger of God and Bethany:

Metatron: Moses was a drunk. Look what he accomplished. And no one's even asking you to part an ocean. All you have to do is go to New Jersey

Bethany: What's He like? God?

Metatron: Lonely. But funny. He's got a great sense of humor.

Or when the Muse is talking about her writing block:

Serendipity: Can you believe it? Me -- a muse, for God's sake! I sit down in front of the typewriter, and what do I get? Nothing. Blank page. I can't even write a grocery list.

Bethany: What about what you did with Jay and Silent Bob? You inspired them.

Serendipity: That's the cosmic joke. I can give out a zillion and nine ideas a second, but I can't keep any for myself. Her [God's] quirky sense of humor..

Between the humor and witty comparisons, lies a lot of intelligent and thought provoking material. Smith is elegantly shifting from amusing comedy, to intelligent drama, from sharp parody to creepy thriller. He plays with religion, twisting and stretching it, posing it in another light. Sometimes it feels like a humorous remake of Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream", where heavens open up and the divine creatures come down from Heaven and Hell to play with us. There is no pompous dialogue and Charlton Heston is not descending a mountain with a set of tablets in hand, however "Dogma" manages to exhibit a deep knowledge of not only the bible, and also the tenets of Christianity throughout the ages. And although that's what Vatican is stating, the audience will not be discouraged by this film, loosing their beliefs. There is a lot of symbolism in this movie, that is helping us realize that there is a supreme power that watches over us. The purpose of this film is not to provoke hatred and misbelief, but instead to gain faith and maybe look at the question of religion from a broader perspective.

When it comes to the visual aspect of this film, it is flawless. A solid cinematography and fast paced editing are framing the actors' impressive preformances. The two friends, Damon and Affleck, repeat the success of "Good Will Hunting" and are both a joy to watch. Alan Rickman and Chris Rock are fabulous, and Linda Fiorentino convincing. So, basically this should be a hit at the box office. But it's not just its provocative style and risky premise that stops "Dogma" from a being a serious Oscar-contender. There are some silly moments, when Smith goes a bit too far and the originality transforms into stupidity. But, forgetting these minor flops (luckily there are not many of them), this is a revalation. Some serious questions are raised about Catholic dogma and organized religion in general. By virtue of their definition and the fact that they're in regards to religion, these questions would understandably upset religious groups. But what those objectors fail to see that the questions raised, such as the dangerous differences between "beliefs" and "ideas," are intelligent ones that would only spring from the mind of someone who takes his or her faith seriously. It is a hilarious, intriguing, intelligent, bizarre and daring experience that is a spectacular analysis of human behavior, our needs, beliefs and problems since the beginning of time. The angry reactions that have met Smith, prove that he has managed to create an epic and should be taken as a compliment. And remember my words: "Dogma" will gain the status of a cult film in five years tops.

- "Were you two sent to Hell? - "No. Worse -- Wisconsin!" - DOGMA

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