Kevin Smith’s Dogma, subject of a bit of uproar after it was shot in Pittsburgh last year, having been denounced by the Catholic League and other detractors who have labeled it blasphemous and a mockery of the things they hold sacred, even before its Cannes debut!
Dogma (go for the Special Edition) is a raging comic powerhouse, with a plot centering on a pair of fallen angels, (played by Ben Affleck and Matt Damon), who hope to exploit a loophole in Catholic dogma to receive plenary indulgence, wiping away their sins and allowing them to return to heaven.
If they succeed, however, they would render God fallible and, thus, destroy all existence. Affleck and Damon are almost too good as the frat-boy angels, as typecast for their looks as they’ll ever be: shiny, neutered and mean.
(“I just love f*cking with the clergy,” Damon’s angel giggles after his first, small nasty steps toward furthering the Apocalypse.) Filled with basic metaphysical contemplation and some of the dirtiest jokes in a movie this year, like Smith’s idea of God; let’s just say She has some amazing dimples alongside her sweet smile.
The movie begins as a New Jersey cardinal, determined to reinvent the modern Church, introduces a program called Catholicism Wow! One of his cracked ideas Is to replace the crucifix as a symbol of the church with a smiling, winking, thumbs-up statue of Jesus he calls “Buddy Christ.”
There’s also one character, Bethany (played by Linda Fiorentino), who works in an abortion clinic and turns out to be a distant relative of Jesus. When she asks, Metatron (Alan Rickman), the angel who delivers God’s messages to humans, why she of all people was chosen to prevent the fallen angels from destroying existence, he says “It has to be revealed gradually. It can’t be revealed all at once.”
Which is what faith is all about, and why so many protest is because it spoils the magic, like finding out that your dad is Santa Claus. And while several small groups that had not seen the film took offense, writer-director Kevin Smith says he’s a devout Catholic, calling the film “a pro-faith, pro-Catholic, spiritually uplifting” movie, but one that he acknowledges employs lots of the vulgar humor that has become one of his trademarks.
This caused the executives of the Disney corporation to use whatever means necessary to strong-arm the honchos at Miramax into killing the film.
While it’s conceivable that Dogma may hold an attraction for Lions Gate Films, the savior – or let’s just say, new distributor of the film – it’s even clearer what elements of Dogma were unappealing to Disney; the prolific swearing, the raw talk about sex, marijuana use, some violence and a demon made of excrement.
Smith is a truly daring satirist, (as in his movies Clerks, Chasing Amy) which is a delight to watch if only because satire nowadays is almost always de-fanged in our contemporary world of cowardly corporate power. His knack for the wild verbal fusillade remains unmatched, yet he puts it to double-barreled use here in a movie worth seeing.