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dogma is a strange beast of a movie. it is at times hilarious, smart and dramatic while at other times it is juvenile, misguided and irrational. the fourth movie from kevin smith, dogma, plays out nicely but leaves the viewer slightly empty after watching the film.
the plot concerns two angels, ben affleck and matt damon, who have been banned from heaven and have found a loop hole that will get them back in. at the same time, a woman, linda fiorentino, is charged by god to stop them. the movie races from one scene to the next, leaving no time to breathe. joke after joke comes flying at the viewer, while at the same time philosophical banter on religion comes just as fast. like clerks. and mallrats, this movie is made up of a whole mesh of scenes that form a cohesive whole. unlike those movies though, there is a strong story that is told as the movie plays out.
coming after chasing amy, an absolutely fantastic low budget romantic comedy, smith's dogma just seems to pale in comparison. the movie tells a story but the scenes and dialogue come at you so fast that there is never time to digest what just happened. just as you are thinking about the last scene, or about the comedic repertoire spouted out by one of the characters, or the commentary on christianity (or religion in general) that is rather astute in it's logic, smith throws another of those three motifs at you. you forget about what it was that made you think, or laugh and you move on to the next piece. about 90 percent of the film plays out this way. if dogma was a straight out comedy, like clerks., then this wouldn't be a problem, but considering the dramatic theme on religion that is inherent in the script, the movie just doesn't play out as well as it could. even though the film feels a tad too long at it's just over two hour runtime, the film could of been a wee bit longer to flesh out the ideas that smith is trying to convey.
that aside, the only other complaint i have with dogma is that at times it comes off as rather tepid. bodily function jokes and cheap shots at sex and religion are in abundance, and again, in the right context this type of humor works a hell of a lot better. chasing amy showed a more mature side of kevin smith. it was far more sophisticated than mallrats and even clerks.. dogma tries real hard to reach the same heights as, and even soar past, chasing amy and there are fleeting glimpses of it succeeding but ultimately the poop joke overshadows the rest of the film.
one last thing before i move to the positives of dogma. there are many a plot hole in this film. there is one glaring one that cannot be mentioned, in lieu of giving away a major plot point, but one that frustrated me to no end. the rest of them, i think could easily of been avoided if the movie was a few minutes longer.
okay, onto the good things about dogma.
the acting in this film is pretty damn good. all the leads are excellent and even though i usually don't like chris rock, he was pretty damn good too. fiorentino exudes cool and sexy, alan rickman is strong as ever and affleck and damon are always fun to watch together. but this film belongs to jay and silent bob (jason mewes and kevin smith). having made somewhat brief appearances in smith's previous three films, they return as major characters this time around. the two together are uproarious and are a joy to watch.
and smith's direction of the action is better than anything he has done before. chasing amy delivered on a promise he showed in clerks. and dogma expands on that delivery. shooting for the first time in the scope ratio of 2.35, smith and his crew have made a beautiful looking film. with rich colours, beautiful framed shots and more camera movement than clerks., mallrats and chasing amy combined, dogma stands out as the first kevin smith film that is more than just a screenplay. smith has a much bigger budget to play with this time around and he uses it to great effect.
and the sound. i can't not mention the sound. smith's previous films have all sounded flat. they didn't need much in way of sound but still, they were rather flat and tinny with not much in production value. not dogma! nu-uh! armed with a great score by howard shore and a rich and lustful sound effects track, dogma sounds awesome. it's clear, it's loud, it's enveloping; it's a thing of beauty.
kudos mr. smith on your fourth feature film. it's nice to see you blossoming into such a fine director, much better than what you gave the world in mallrats. dogma is a good film, it's witty and smart and is fun to watch right from the get go. it's just a shame that it comes off as so inconsequential. a movie that tackles the subjects that dogma does should leave the viewer thinking long after the credits role. sadly, after watching dogma, all one is left with at the end of the day is a hazy memory of a poop joke.
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