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"Dogma"

Directed by Kevin Smith.
Written by Kevin Smith. 
Starring Ben Affleck, Matt Damon and Chris Rock.
Release Year:  1999
Review Date:  11/24/99 

Folks--

What up?  Happy Tuesday...the week of 1000 movies continues, and tonight, it was "Dogma", Kevin Smith's new one about all things religious.  I am assuming that everyone on the list has seen at least one of Smith's movies:  "Clerks", "Chasing Amy", "Mallrats."  This is of dire importance, because the only thing I can recommend about "Dogma" is Jay and Silent Bob (Smith himself plays Bob).

I don't know what exactly it is about these two characters, but I think they are funny as shit.  In "Dogma", they bring instant energy to their ridiculous scenes as wisecracking profits that are meant to serve Linda Fiorentino's savior character Bethany.  Whether Jay is talking about chasing skirt, masturbating with thoughts of other men in mind, describing situational chaos (the line about Han Solo, Chewy, and Obi-Wan had me laughing my ass off) or just straight cussing, he is without question the funniest thing in the movie.  By the time he is firing a machine gun in slow-motion near the end of the movie, ala "Rambo: First Blood Part II", I was laughing from the gut.

But, as funny as Silent Bob and Jay are, you must be asking, "what about all the other actors?"  This might be the most eclectic cast in memory, but assuredly it's the strangest one of the year.  Chris Rock, Janeane Garofalo, Alan Rickman (Hans from "Die Hard"), Linda Fiorentino ("The Last Seduction", the best movie I never saw in a theater), Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Salma Hayek, Jason Lee (a veteran of Smith's other films), George Carlin, and...Alanis Morrisette??  The problem with having so many great actors in his movie is that Smith can't possibly give them any time to do anything.  So, you've got a bunch of scenes patched together with all of these stars (Fiorentino is the main character) in a bunch of different places, and the audience doesn't really have any time to really connect with them.  It's kind of like a Woody Allen movie, but for some reason, Allen always seems to pull it off; the same can't be said here.

The plot concerns two angels (Damon and Affleck, with Affleck looking positively bored in the early going) who are trying to make their way into Heaven.  Because of previous wrongs, the angels have to enter through the front door of a church that is celebrating its centennial anniversary in order to ascend through the clouds.  Of course, the church is in New Jersey! If this event occurs, it will end the existence of mankind, so it's up to the Last Scion (Fiorentino), the voice of God (Rickman), the 13th Apostle (Rock), and Jay & Silent Bob (Jason Mewes and Smith) to stop the renegade angels from making the entry.  To overcomplicate the ordeal, Lucifer has sent a select group of minions (led by lee) to head the angels off as well.  This all leads to a showdown at the pearly gates of Carlin's house of God in Jersey.

And, maybe it's just me, so please tell me this:  I thought the first half of both "Chasing Amy" and "Mallrats" was really funny, leading to an overly-long, semi-dramatic second half.  Did you think the same thing?  Well, this is "Dogma"'s problem in a nutshell.  The first 45 minutes of this movie are absolutely hilarious, setting up all of the characters and letting both Rock's apostle and Jay/Silent Bob lay into some serious laughs to get the movie started.  But, soon after Damon's violent angel character starts whacking evil kids' toy executives, adulterers, etc., I became a bit less interested in the film.  It stopped even attempting to be funny--many times, movies are comedies throughout, but the material just isn't funny.  That isn't the case with "Dogma"--when the script tries to be funny, there are laughs to be had, but the second half of the movie is spent mostly going through religious explanations that came off as lessons more than conversations.  Hayek is almost completely wasted in her role as a muse that uses her scenes only to explain to Fiorentino holes in her religious knowledge.  Not to say this is not necessary...but, to be honest, Hayek uses more 10-letter words in just one scene in this movie than in her entire movie career, and I'm just looking for her to be all Latina-hot, and I'm not gettin' it!  C'mon!

Scenes like "The Excremental" (an evil elemental made entirely of...) and the bloody end scene in front of the church just seemed a bit out of place for a Kevin Smith comedy.  And, Morrisette's cameo was meaningless to me, and maybe it was because she had no lines!  Overall, I would see this if you liked any of Smith's first three movies, but the piecemeal way this movie is put together means that it has a lot of moments, not really any flow of moviemaking excitement.

Rating:  Matinee

 

Comments?  Drop me a line at justin@bellviewmovies.com.

 

Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/bellviewmovies.com except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09