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Dogma (1999)
Director: Kevin Smith

review by Steven Hampton

Certainly one of the most generically mixed up films I have ever seen, this lamely whimsical comedy fantasy is too confused to satisfy even the most undemanding viewer. It fails miserably as biblical apocalypse, road movie, counterculture satire and - whatever! The familiar characters of Jay and silent Bob from this director's earlier slacker movies like Clerks (1994), which I have not seen, and Mallrats (1995) which I did see, and found wanting - seem wholly out of place here, consigned to merely non-participant spectatorship at worst, clumsy interlopers in the main, earnestly theological action, at best.
   A potentially great cast are largely wasted as they stand firm spouting the vacuous dialogue (Alan Rickman is only amusing as the 'voice of God' until we realise he isn't going to go away), or go running scared of ridiculous juvenilia, like the smelly and almost invulnerable shit monster. If you can bear the thought of Ben Affleck as a fallen angel, American comedian Chris Rock as a 13th apostle, Matt Damon as Loki (did I mention how confused Dogma is?), and a mercy killing as the act that saves the world - oh, irony! - this film is for you. But if it is, I think you need psychiatric help.
   The women in the film, Linda Fiorentino and Salma Hayek, are given important, pivotal roles in the plot. Yet, Hayek's muse is discovered performing in a strip club, and Fiorentino suffers the indignity of a wet t-shirt scene that undermines any dramatic value she tries to invest in her character's protests against God (finally revealed as Alanis Morissette, ho-hum). So, pretty much a clear case of a project that was in need of a script doctor, and a competent director, too.
previously published online, VideoVista #15

Dogma (1999)
Director: Kevin Smith

review by Debbie Moon

After many years satirising American life, movies, and corner stores, Kevin Smith obviously decided it was time for something on a larger scale - a positively cosmic scale, in fact. Two angels cast out of heaven have just discovered a loophole in Catholic dogma that will let them back in. Unfortunately, that would reverse the will of God, and the universe would cease to exist. God has gone AWOL on a visit to Earth, so the world is in the hands of a lapsed Catholic, the 13th apostle, a muse, and, erm, Jay and Silent Bob. We're in big trouble...
   Far from the blasphemous horror some have made it out to be, this is an agreeable, warm-hearted film. That just happens to contain mass murder, excrement demons, and Alanis Morissette. You may disagree with some of Smith's criticisms, or indeed, with the film's woolly 'doesn't matter what you believe as long as you believe' philosophy, but its heart is in the right place. The performances are all excellent, with Alan Rickman's world-weary Voice of God a particular delight, and the Ben Affleck and Matt Damon double-act on top form as the mismatched rebels. It's a taut, well-constructed comedy that topples your preconceptions with gusto, and might even make you think now and then.
previously published online, VideoVista #23
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