Dogma (1999) / Comedy-Fantasy
MPAA Rated: R for strong language including sex-related dialogue, violence, crude humor and some drug content
Running Time: 130 min.
Cast: Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Linda Fiorentino, Salma Hayek, Chris Rock
Director: Kevin Smith
Screenplay: Kevin Smith
Review published April 21, 2000
Kevin Smith (Chasing Amy, Clerks) has one real talent and he exploits it to the fullest. That talent is his own imagination and perspective on popular culture. He brings this imaginative and insightful style into each project he works on, and even when the project is bad (Mallrats), the film still shines during certain moments when a funny or clever idea hiccups up to the surface. However, it appears that in all other respects, Smith is still an amateur, especially when it comes to directing and as a screenwriter he has a hard time harnessing all his wonderful observations into anything of great substance. Dogma is yet another clunky work by Kevin Smith has its share of moments but is defeated by it's own excess baggage.
The story deals with a supposed distant relative (Fiorentino, Men in Black) of Jesus Christ himself, who is a sort-of Chosen One designated to stop two renegade (and banished from heaven) angels from entering a church, thus restoring their souls and re-entering Heaven. The problem is that if they are successful they will destroy the universe and everything in it since it is in direct violation of God's Will and God is supposed to be infallible.
Never mind the fact that Dogma is biblically inaccurate or that Catholics may find it unintentionally offensive to their beliefs, this film is watchable only for a few funny scenes and nothing more. As a story, it's an interesting idea, but very poorly conceived characters and situations galore take the legs out from under the screenplay and the film flops around like a fish on dry land, gasping desperately for life before ultimately dying a painful and pathetic death about a half hour before the film's too-long-in-coming ending.
For every funny observation, there are several that are painfully unfunny, and recurring jokes such as the fact that angels cannot imbibe alcohol are D.O.A. It's a real shame that Kevin Smith developed such an avid following after Clerks that he is given almost free reign to do what he wills, because had this been the work of a nobody, it probably would have been rejected until it was made into a better film. The double-edged sword of Smith's sense of humor -- he can be very funny, hilarious even, but he can also be horrible. Hopefully Smith learns the difference before he kills his promising career.
©2000 Vince Leo