Saturday, July 30, 2011

Kevin Smith's Perfect Film: Dogma

The Good: Funny, Witty, Insightful, Well-acted, Wonderful characters, Message, Themes
The Bad: Insecurity of a longer film
The Basics: A perfect film focusing on the hypocrisy of religion vs. god, Dogma succeeds in being funny and intelligent.

Dogma is a film it's difficult to not evaluate with an emotional reaction because so many people have so many feelings about religion. I think Dogma's tagline ought to have been "God Commandeth Thee To Lighten Up." Despite what you may have heard, Dogma is a surprisingly serious film and it pulls itself off quite well.

The story is that Loki and Bartleby are two angels who have fallen from grace and now have found a way back into Heaven using a loophole in Catholic ceremonial belief. So, as they journey to Red Bank, New Jersey, the Metatron (an angel who acts as the voice of god) finds Bethany and charges her with the holy task of stopping the angels from completing their mission. The premise is simple. If the angels receive forgiveness from the Catholic church, they can be absolved of their sins and enter heaven which god said they could never do again and if god is proven wrong, existence would collapse.

Such is the premise of Dogma. And the execution is riotous. Bethany is not forced to go it alone. She is accompanied by Jay and Silent Bob (from Clerks, Mallrats, and Chasing Amy) who are acting as prophets and Rufus, the neglected 13th apostle.

And it's funny. Repeatedly. I've seen this film at least fifteen times now and it still makes me laugh. Aloud. Frequently. It's hilarious. It is packed with humor.

It's also packed with important messages that need to be spoken of in this day in age. The film tackles the idea of belief verses ideas and the danger of imposing a belief on others. One need only look at the current violence in the world to see that this is a lesson a lot of people need to learn. Dogma illustrates wonderfully the danger of beliefs and imposing them upon others.

But it does it with essential humanism. Bethany reads as quite real. Her reactions of bafflement as she travels from her ordinary life to enlightenment are deeply human and very much right on.

Kevin Smith creates a perfect film on his fourth flick. The man makes it seem effortless to create a situation that is grand and devastating while loading it with humor and intelligence. Sure, there are a lot of jokes based on flatulence and anatomy, but there are also wonderful long monologues about the essential messages of the film.

The drawback of the film is revealed on the Special Edition DVD - which is a great investment if you view Dogma and like it - in the deleted and extended scenes, which is that so much of the film was trimmed. While I agree with the assessment that the Golgotham deserved only one scene, the other deleted and shortened scenes deserved to be kept in. Smith's - and Hollywood's - fear of a three hour film is a disappointing one. There was enough information, meat and (dare I say?) soul to keep much of the removed material in.

But even without those scenes, Dogma pulls itself off as a perfect film. Entirely rewatchable, the story is solid, the characters are interesting and the acting is wonderful. Ben Affleck gives his best performance as Bartleby, going from an intellectual to an emotional, vengeful angel. Matt Damon is surprisingly good as Loki, who goes on the opposite journey from vengeful to thoughtful. Linda Fiorentino presents Bethany with realism and heart. The surprises on the acting front are in the form of Chris Rock and Jason Mewes. Rock shows he can deliver dramatic sequences in character, as opposed to devolving into his comedy routines as himself. He's good and when he's supposed to be funny, he is and distinctly as Rufus as opposed to Chris Rock (though there are moments . . .). Jason Mewes, likewise, presents Jay with more clarity and consistency than one might expect. The role may be of a confused stoner, but the acting is consistent and precise.

The short of it is that there is finally a film that the devout (who have a sense of humor) and the atheist may sit down together and watch and enjoy equally.

For other movies featuring Alan Rickman, please visit my reviews of:
Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part 2
Alice In Wonderland
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street
Love Actually


For other film reviews, click here to visit my index page!

© 2011, 2002 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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