‘…a rare satirical blockbuster…’

With blu-rays of Kevin Smith’s controversial movie checking in on Amazon at over $100 a whack, it’s worth asking; is there something going on with his all-star controversy-fest Dogma? A surprise hit back in 1999, it’s something of an off-beat farrago that indulges Smith’s usual scatological humour, but also makes some interesting pot-shots at organised religion, and specifically the Catholic belief system. While a bumpy ride, deliberately so, Dogma is also a rare satirical blockbuster, and even in 2022, there’s a lot to unpack here if you can find a copy that doesn’t cost the earth.

Back together after Good Will Hunting, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon play two angels, Bartleby and Loki, who come to earth to take advantage of a loophole in their church’s dogma; they’re headed from Wisconsin to New Jersey to do this, and share their journey with a motley crew including a muse called Serendipity (Salma Hayek), an abortion counsellor called Bethany (Linda Fiorentino), and Alan Rickman as acid-tongued angel Metatron.

As a Kevin Smith movie, the director has to appear with Jason Mewes in their regular Jay and Silent Bob roles, and there are also appearances for Chris Rock, George Carlin, Bud Cort and a wordless, assuredly ironic part for singer Alanis Morrisette. At over two hours long, and featuring a monster made of human excrement, the road-movie promised never quite takes a conventional shape, but with this cast, and Smith testing the limits at every turn, it’s not boring either.

Smith’s film is less of an attack as a complaint, and the constant bickering about the nature of faith does feel reasonably heartfelt, if somewhat short of CS Lewis. For all the wilfully obscene content of his film, Smith seems like a fallen angel rather than a devil; his caustic view of theology as a flawed system doesn’t feel invented for shock value. For some, the first step in believing in God is to complain about religion, and Smith’s film feels born out of personal experience.


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    • Picking up an old DVD is your best bet, but while Smith has always had good comedy, this is probably his most thoughtful and yet offensive film…

    • You may dare, but apart from a poolroom brawl with the sh*t monster, there’s not much actual action. On this website, however, we’ve had a Rambo movie, a JCVD movie, AND Codename The Soldier, so I’m declaring this an action packed week. Official!

  1. I’ve knowingly watched 2 Smith movies, Jay&Silent Bob Strike Back and the Jay&Bob reboot/retcon/whateveritwas. While it definitely had its funny parts, Smith is not someone I’d want to allow inside my head ever again.

    How you managed to drag Lewis into your review, while complete bollux (bollox? bollix? You english and your weird swears), also made me laugh. Because if anyone would be interested in trying to answer Smith’s questions (if Smith was being honest and not just trying to force a point), Lewis would be that person. Me? I’d probably run him over with a big mack (the truck or the hamburger would work fine by me)

    • I’m dragging CS into this because he’s someone who has made genuine inquiry into matters of faith. He’s not trying to make the kind of work Smith does, but I’m crediting Smith with trying to explore these issues without just ranting and raving. This has much more content that his Jay and Silent Bob stuff.

      Bollocks is the word you are searching for.

      I am not English in any way.

  2. This was an oddball picture at a time when oddball was okay. I suspect Damon and Affleck wanted to keep the low-budget vibe going. Not so keen on Clerks but this was interesting offbeat.

  3. I never saw this. Not sure why. I loved Clerks when it came out but then never bothered much with Smith after that. Maybe it was the Affleck connection. I did see Chasing Amy and thought it was one of the worst movies ever made.

    • I think Smith is an interesting figure, he’d probably agree that his output hasn’t quite matched his popular public persona. Like you, I thought Chasing Amy was pretty awful, but Dogma is probably his most assuredly provocative movie to date. This is now a hard-to-locate movie and that’s very much to do with Smith not being part of the virtue-signalling 20’s…

        • Affleck is only one of a big cast here, and while admittedly shambolic to watch, it’s also a quite genuine look at faith, and Smith really does need the discipline of having a lot of talent to work with. It’s not something that could be made now…

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