Anyone who doesn't see the reverent sensibility behind the cardinal's new image of a thumbs-up Christ with a wink in his eye is doomed, if not to Wisconsin, at least to dreary acceptance of earthly righteousness.

DOGMA

A Illusion review by Joan Ellis.


Whatever else you may think about Kevin Smith's Dogma, you will surely not forget Cardinal Glick (George Carlin) standing in front of his cathedral to announce that the crucifix is an inappropriately violent symbol for the Catholic Church. It should, he says, be retired as an icon and replaced by the Christ figure he is about to unveil.

This goofy scene is an immediate announcement of the film's irreverence, an invitation to the audience to enjoy poking fun at the dogma and ritual man has built around God. The misguided protestors who malign Dogma miss entirely the point that the movie is irreverent not about God, but about man. It's about the dogmatics.

By now movielovers know that writer/director Kevin Smith has an imagination that is untethered by conventional restraints. He lofts questions into the air for discussion by quirky protagonists whose straightforward and original insights are wrapped in the colors and clothes of the comic strip world Mr. Smith loves so well. As an observer of the comedy of the human condition, he is a little bit wonderfully, brilliantly nuts. He has managed to assemble colleagues who share his vision, notably Scott Mosier, the producer who downloads the script from his partner's head into movie reality.

For his observations on the dogma that obscures religion, Mr. Smith has chosen the odyssey of two fallen angels. Bartleby (Ben Affleck) and Loki (Matt Damon) are earthbound, exiled by God to Wisconsin for their sins. After several thousand years in the Midwest, they have discovered that if they can pass through a portal at an exact moment in a cathedral in Red Bank, New Jersey, they can return to heaven.

But there is the problem that God is infallible, and if they succeed in returning, they will have reversed God, an act that would destroy humanity. On their journey to Red Bank, the angels negotiate a thicket of churchly questions posed by Bethany (Linda Fiorentino), the 13th Apostle (Chris Rock), and the prophets Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (Kevin Smith). "The Voice of God has to be British; it's that simple," is Smith's comment about Alan Rickman's character. Linda Fiorentino is especially good as the bewildered seeker carrying a big responsibility. Her Bethany is, after all, an abortion-clinic worker who happens to be the last descendent of Jesus Christ on earth.

The entire cast, many of them Kevin Smith regulars, has caught the spirit of pricking the collective belief system that earnest men have built through the centuries according to the fashion of the moment. It is this man-made barrier between man and God that the movie takes on, joke by joke in a kind of eighth-grade humor and skepticism that so often accompanies faith. Anyone who doesn't see the reverent sensibility behind the cardinal's new image of a thumbs-up Christ with a wink in his eye is doomed, if not to Wisconsin, at least to dreary acceptance of earthly righteousness.


Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Word Count : 498
Studio : Lions Gate Films
Rating : R
Running time : 2h5m


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