***.5 GM
Starring: Linda Fiorentino, Alan Rickman, Chris Rock, Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Kevin Smith, Jason Mewes, Jason Lee, Salma Hayek, George Carlin


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Let's get a couple of my biases out of the way, so my review can be judged fairly. I love Kevin Smith movies. I love the wise-ass, comic-book, ranting-monologue, quipmaster oddball way he writes. "Clerks" was basically about a friend of mine, "Mallrats" I happened to see in the exact frame of mind you need to be in to watch that (and still managed to think Shannen Doherty was the worst thing about it), and "Chasing Amy"... I liked it, and I saw it with a bisexual friend who loved it, so the doubts I had about how it treated the subject of homosexuality probably aren't valid. I even loved the Jay and Silent Bob comics.

Now comes "Dogma," which Catholics everywhere (excluding Kev himself) are decrying as the most evil, hellspawned film ever created, conveniently overlooking anything made by Joe Eszterhas. What's getting these suckapunks so riled up is not the fact that Kev is attacking the belief in God, which is what they claim it is. It's the fact that he's mocking the archaic, stupid, ridiculous practices involved with organized religion that these schlubs participate in through the irrational fear that God will punt you to hell if you don't doze through an excruciatingly dull sermon every Sunday morning. Very much the 'Jesus, save me from your followers' kinda vibe.

This film doesn't even feel like an attack on anything, though. There is so much whacked-out shit in the Bible, and it looks like Kev just decided to have a whole lot of fun mixing and matching elements of it to create a weird, hilarious and fantastical little farce of it all. To me, the highest forms of humor are the utter non-sequiturs - weird crap that comes out of nowhere for no particular reason usually strikes me as hysterical... and this flick has got a lot of that.

Bartleby (Ben Affleck) and Loki (Matt Damon) are two fallen angels banished to Wisconsin that, with the help of Azrael (Jason Lee), find a loophole in Catholic dogma that would allow them to re-enter heaven as the result of Cardinal Glick's (GEORGE CARLIN, ladies and gentlemen! GENIUS!) overzealousness to make his religion appeal to everyone by offering complete forgiveness of all sins to anyone who simply enters his church. Problem is, if the Good Will Hunting Krew go through with this, the infallibility of God is negated, and existence will come next. So Metatron (Alan Rickman) - God's 'production manager' - enlists Bethany (Linda Fiorentino), Jay & Silent Bob (Jason Mewes and Kev himself) and Rufus (Chris Rock), The Thirteenth Apostle, to stop 'em. Hilarity ensues.

So much has been made about this film already that people might be expecting some huge statement about the condition of humanity or some sort of existential ramblings about the meaning of life... but this film is just a comedy. An insane, profane, shit-stained comedy. The ridiculous juxtaposition of all these weighty, heavenly issues and a couple of stoners trying really hard to bang Linda Fiorentino does not stop being funny. There are some rough spots, it's not very polished, it does occasionally suffer from the recurring Kevin Smith problem of too-quick and unfocused monologue delivery - a somewhat important expository monologe from Salma Hayek is hard to listen to when so much other stuff is going on at the same time - and Fiorentino's character seems occasionally inconsistent and a bit too eye-rollingly sarcastic at odd moments... but I don't think I'd have it any other way. Part of the appeal of Kev flicks are the fact that they don't feel like a "MOTION PICTURE." It always feels like a guy you know wrote a cool script and got a bunch of his friends to put it on film, and he's gonna come over to your house to kick back and watch it with you at 3 AM. The only real differences this time are that the film has an effects budget and the same goobers you've seen in the rest of the Kev flicks are intermingling with big-time Hollywood guys, and that combination alone is funny enough to make the film work.

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