Dogma Review: Spreading the Okay Word for “Thursday Night Flicks”
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Whenever a movie opens with a content warning, you know you’ve stumbled upon something different and Dogma certainly qualifies. The movie plays with, mocks, and in some cases promotes Catholicism and religion. With an all-star cast, director Kevin Smith’s Dogma cashes in controversy for an overall average film.
The movie begins with our protagonist Bethany (Linda Fiorentino) having a crisis of faith, which is rapidly cut short when Metatron, the Voice of God (Alan Rickman) appears from Heaven and gives Bethany a mission from God. He explains that two banished angels named Bartleby and Loki (Ben Affleck and Matt Damon) have found a loophole in divine law that would allow them to return to Heaven, which would undermine God and destroy all of creation. Now, Bethany must travel with the two stoner “prophets” Jay and Silent Bob (Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith) as well as Rufus (Chris Rock), the fourteenth apostle of Jesus removed from the Bible due to whitewashing, in an attempt to save the world.
The movie’s cast of actors certainly pays off during the film, as the dynamics between the characters is one of the film’s strongest points. The friendship between Bartleby and Loki brings a lot of laughs, while also giving serious weight to their more dramatic arguments. Likewise, Alan Rickman’s portrayal of Metatron has some of the most touching and heartfelt moments in the film, which can be shockingly moving in a movie featuring a literal shit demon.
The main character Bethany herself isn’t as strong. Frankly, she seems to be in the wrong movie entirely. While the rest of the cast can alternate between being funny and serious (barring Jay and Silent Bob, who are comic relief), she never tells a joke. She hardly ever even cracks a smile. She spends the entire movie questioning her faith and God’s grace, a far cry away from her more colorful companions. During more lighthearted scenes, she’ll often be the one to bring down the mood.
And there lies the film’s biggest flaw: it doesn’t quite know what it wants to be. The first act is dramatic with some comedy thrown in. The second is a comedic with some dramatic moments. The third act goes back to being dramatic with some comedic moments. While you might expect the juxtaposition to improve these elements, it just seems confusing and half-hearted. And then the movie tries to seriously discuss the nature of religion and religious beliefs in a heavy-handed manner, which falls flat when compared to the rest of the film. These philosophical diversions mostly just waste time.
As for the comedy, it can be hit or miss. The biggest problem stems from the fact that most characters only get one joke attached to them. Jay wants to get high and have sex. Rufus was an apostle and is angry at being removed from the Bible. Loki wants to kill everyone. Bartleby tries to talk Loki out of killing people who haven’t sinned. Bethany has no jokes. That’s it. Only Silent Bob has a wider variety of jokes and prop gags, but his gimmick is still the whole ‘silent’ element. While Bartleby, Loki, and Rufus get enough variety in their jokes to stay funny, Jay in particular falls flat. If you weren’t a fan of weed and sex humor at his first joke, it probably won’t be better by his twelfth.
And so, Dogma is an entertaining yet forgettable movie. While it has some funny and poignant moments, it’s bogged down by the movie’s uncertain genre and one-note jokes. The biggest draw to the movie would be its talented cast, who do an excellent job with the occasionally weak script. While the movie’s premise may seem crude, it’s ultimately just a harmless movie that really doesn’t do much to offend. And if you are offended…well, the movie did warn you.
See the movie yourself this Thursday at 5:30 PM at The Rockefeller Auditorium.