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Movie Details

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Directed By
Kevin Smith

Written By:
Kevin Smith

Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Linda Fiorentino, Chris Rock, Salma Hayek, Jason Lee, George Carlin, Alan Rickman, Jason Mewes, Janeane Garofalo, Kevin Smith, Bud Cort, Jeff Anderson, Guinevere Turner, Alanis Morissette

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Dogma (1999)
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Movie Review by Jarrod
December 29th, 2007

'Dogma' is one of the most intelligent and intriguing comedies ever made, and it ranks as Kevin Smith's best film, with the possible exception of Clerks. It is sinfully funny, wildly audacious and irreverent, and yet it offers a methodical evaluation of Catholicism, so intimately familiar with its rituals, terminology, history, and basic theology that non-Catholic viewers may have a difficult time understanding some of the dialogue and certain aspects of the plot, which involves two fallen angels, Loki (Damon) and Bartleby (Affleck) on their way to New Jersey to exploit a loophole that would allow them to re-enter heaven; this loophole is called a plenary indulgence. Loki was once an angel of death, responsible for the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and the events of Passover. Bartleby is the smooth talker, a creature of judgment, who can see every sin a person has committed. Their scheme to re-enter heaven would result in the annihilation of the world, simply because it would show that God is not infallible. This is explained to Bethany (Linda Fiorentino) by Metatron (Rickman), an angel who serves as the voice of God. Bethany is a lapsed Catholic, who works at an abortion clinic. She has been chosen to stop Loki and Bartleby, a divine mission that would presumably restore her faith. Accompanying her are two "prophets", the Jay and Silent Bob characters from Smith's previous features (Jason Mewes and Smith himself). Jay is a stoner who just wants to have sex with Bethany, who finds him obnoxious and disgusting. There is also Rufus (Chris Rock), the 13th apostle, who is bitter because he was left out of the New Testament for racist reasons. Bethany also meets Serendipity (Salma Hayek), a former muse, now working as a stripper. The primary antagonist is a demon named Azrael (Jason Lee), a former muse like Serendipity, who was cast into Hell, and has a trio of skateboard punks with hockey sticks do his work for him. It is Azrael who summons the Golgothan, a monster made out of excrement, to kill Bethany. Smith is clearly infatuated with his own dialogue, and has written a lot of it, so that these characters can engage in fascinating discussions about a variety of religious issues, including the nature (and gender) of God, and the hypocrisy and superficiality of the church, which has established over the course of centuries what is and is not acceptable for Christians to believe.

George Carlin has an amusing cameo as a bishop seeking to make Catholicism more appealing for the modern worshiper, and he unveils a new image of Jesus, known as the Buddy Christ, which is more upbeat than the traditional image of Jesus hanging on a cross. Loki and Bartleby talk about their roles as angels, what it means to be an angel, to exist only to serve at God's feet, and not be granted mercy for your transgressions, while humans are given the free will to reject God, to defy him and mock him, and seem to meet with infinite patience, and always have a chance to redeem themselves. The film was decried as blasphemous, even though it takes Catholic theology very seriously, but does spare no effort to ridicule and criticize the organized church, which is a sentiment I think even most Catholics could appreciate and understand. There are deep questions that are pondered. Questions that even the greatest of Christian thinkers have struggled with for the last millennium, from Tertullian to St Augustine to Thomas Aquinas.

Some might be offended by the idea that God could be a woman, or that Jesus might be black, but then there are undeniable truths and insight that emerge from these intentionally provocative concepts; for instance, Mary was a virgin when she gave birth to Jesus, but she did have a husband, and we can presume she had other children with him, thus giving Jesus some brothers and sisters, who had families of their own, meaning that while Jesus may have never married or produced offspring, he certainly had blood relatives whose descendants may survive into the present day. There is plenty of vulgarity, abundant usage of profanity, but nothing that defiles the Lord's name. I found nothing particularly disrespectful towards Jesus or even towards God, unless one believes that thinking of them as anything other than white male entities is a grave insult.

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