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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
Dogma (1999)

"Any moron with a pack of matches can set a fire. Raining down sulfur is like an endurance trial. Mass genocide is the most exhausting activity one can engage in, next to soccer."
- Loki (Matt Damon)

Review By: Justin Stephen   
Published: June 20, 2000

Stars: Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Linda Fiorentino
Other Stars: Alan Rickman, Chris Rock, Salma Hayek, Jason Mewes, George Carlin, Jason Lee
Director: Kevin Smith

MPAA Rating: R for strong language, including sex-related dialogue, violence, crude humor and some drug content.
Run Time: 01h:28m:00s
Release Date: May 02, 2000
UPC: 043396048911
Genre: comedy

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

Writer/director Kevin Smith's 1994 feature debut, Clerks, proved to be a huge success at Sundance and quickly achieved cult favorite status, even inspiring a television animated series of the same name. Smith followed up on Clerks with the much-maligned Mallrats (1995) and the hugely successful Chasing Amy (1997). While all three of these draw the vast majority of their strength from their clever scripts, all also feature characters and settings firmly grounded in reality. Like its predecessors, Dogma relies primarily on clever dialogue but is, by far, Smith's most chimerical effort.

Loki (Damon) and Bartleby (Affleck) are two angels who have been kicked out of heaven for insubordination and now live an eternally monotonous existence among mankind in Wisconsin. Loki and Bartleby receive word, via an anonymously mailed news clipping, of a new "Catholicism Wow!" campaign being launched by the Catholic church in an effort to give the church an upbeat image. Cardinal Glick (Carlin) is the church's pointman for the this new campaign and has just held a news conference where he has unveiled "Buddy Christ", a statue of a winking Jesus who giving a thumbs up, that is to replace the aged, depressing Crucifix. As part of a New Jersey cathedral rededication, Cardinal Glick has also announced that anyone who enters the cathedral four days hence will be wiped clean of sin via "plenary indulgence", a little-used tenet of church dogma. Loki and Bartleby see the loophole that this can provide them. If they travel to New Jersey, become men (Angels can apparently become men simply by cutting off their wings), pass through the entrance of the cathedral and then die, they must be allowed back into heaven.

To the south Bethany Sloan (Fiorentino), a divorced abortion clinic worker, is visited in the night by Metatron (Rickman), the angel that acts as the voice of God. Apparently, any human who hears the actual voice of God would die instantaneously from the shock. Metatron informs Bethany that she has been chosen by God for a sacred quest. She is to meet up with two almost-prophets and travel to New Jersey to prevent Loki and Bartleby from entering the cathedral. If Loki and Bartleby are able to do so, they will have not only exploited a loophole, they will have proven God wrong, thus unraveling the very fabric of existence and causing an end to all life on earth.

Bethany reluctantly agrees to except her ecclesiastical role and, after joining up with the almost-prophets (who turn out to be a pair of sex-crazed post-teen slackers), she sets off on a road trip to New Jersey to fulfill their divine purpose. Along the way they meet up with Rufus (Rock), the 13th apostle (who feels that he was left out of the Bible because he is black), and Serendipity (Hayek), a former celestial muse who now lives life on earth as an exotic dancer. What follows is a road race with lots of twists and turns and humorous interaction between characters. Each group has a run in with Azrael (Lee), a dark muse who has come up from hell to fulfill his own sinister purpose with the help of his evil henchmen, the Stygian triplets (who look suspiciously like three roller-blading punks). Like the rest of Kevin Smith's feature films, Dogma is a dialogue driven film. Acting, character development, and setting all take a back seat to dialogue. In some films, this would be a kiss of death, but for Smith, this has proven to be a generally effective strategy.

Much has been made of the public outcry against this film by religious conservatives, particularly the Catholic League. Much of this criticism was undoubtedly made by those who have never actually seen Dogma. Yes, Smith does take some cheap shots at Catholicism, and organized religion in general, but his ultimate message is good-hearted and spiritual. There are some references made in this film that non-Catholics are likely to miss, but Smith does a good job of providing ample time to the explanation of those concepts that truly need be explained (such as "plenary indulgence").

Smith, like Quentin Tarantino, has a real penchant for casting himself in his films. Unlike Tarantino, however, Smith has the good sense to cast himself in roles that require almost no dialogue. Here he plays "Silent Bob", a character who has appeared in all four of his feature films. Joining him is another reoccurring character, Jay, again played by Jason Mewes. Dogma's humor attempts to work on two levels. It contains both a plethora of elevated, more inspired humor and bawdier, sex-related humor. It is fair to say that 95+% of the latter comes from the mouth of Jason Mewes. While much has been made of Mewes, I found his character to be generally annoying and I wish Dogma contained far less of him. The real appeal of Dogma are some of the other brilliantly funny moments and characters that the film offers up. Rickman, in particular, is absolutely stellar in his role as Metatron, playing the role with a delightfully dry cynicism. Also noteworthy is Damon, as Loki, who has some of the best lines in the film and delivers them with real skill. One scene in particular, wherein Loki and Bartleby visit the boardroom of a large corporation in order to dish out some divine justice, is one of the most hilarious I have ever viewed.

Unfortunately, Dogma does lose a lot of steam in its final third. The film dragged on longer than it needed to and I found myself longing for the successful comedic energy found earlier in the film. There is some redemption at the very end, when God appears to put things in order (played by a celebrity whose name I shall not reveal here). Desite its flaws, Dogma is well worth a look for its somewhat scathing look at religion and its genuinely hilarious moments.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyesno

Image Transfer Review: The anamorphic image transfer of Dogma is generally very good. There is no presence of artifacts or edge enhancement and the colors are realistic, albeit somewhat muted. Flesh tones are very accurate as a whole. The full screen transfer on the disc's flip side is also quite good.

Image Transfer Grade: A-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Frenchyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: Dogma's audio transfer is solid but unexceptional. The rear surrounds sit mostly idle during the film, except during occasional moments of action when they kick into life in spades. I did find the sound level mix to be rather annoying, however. You may find yourself, as I did on occasion, diving for the volume controls to turn down the sound when Dogma transitions to one of its few action sequences.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Other Trailer(s) featuring The Opposite of Sex
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Dogma is a relatively "plain-jane" release with little in the way of extras. Two theatrical trailers are provided; one is for Dogma, the other for a little film entitled The Opposite of Sex (a film I highly recommend, as it happens). Cast bios and filmographies are also present. That's all she wrote. For those seeking more extras with this film, Kevin Smith is said to be producing a "special edition" of Dogma to be released in the October timeframe.

Extras Grade: D


Final Comments

Fans of Kevin Smith's previous work are sure to love Dogma as well. Even though he has set his sites on a more elevated target, this is vintage Smith through and through. Dogma loses its way in places, especially near the end, but it is a genuinely hilarious film in places and does have something sincere to say about organized religion. As a more features-laden special edition of this film is due to be out later this year, perhaps it would be more prudent to rent than buy at this time.


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