Bored of being eternally banished to earth, two errant angels hatch a plan to sneak back into heaven. Unfortunately, if they use the required loophole in religious Dogma
, they'll prove God fallible and undo the very fabric of the universe, ending all existence. Bummer. Enter the distant grand niece of Jesus Christ and an army of angels, beautiful mythical figures, saintly apostles and all entities good and holy. And Jay and Silent Bob.
The phrase "it's a religious comedy" must have caused Hollywood to have a sacred cow. And, as Smith's first attempt to move away from the early lo-fi, character-centred, relationship-based comedies (Clerks, Mallrats and Chasing Amy) toward the narrative-led big-budget spectacular, Dogma is not without problems. Proving controversial on release, stones were cast by churchgoers and Smith devotees alike. Frothing-mouthed extremists levelled charges of blasphemy at the more colourful elements (a Malcolm X-style 13th apostle, the crucifix being binned as uncool and God not being a white-bearded patriarch), leaving the devoutly Catholic Smith, who's intentions were to celebrate the mystery and beauty of religion, completely bemused. Equally, the Luddite Clerks obsessives who wrote it off as "Smith-gone-Hollywood" should have recognised that the script was written way before he gave us his black-and-white debut.
More ambitious than his previous mates-roped-in cheapies, the apocryphal and apocalyptic Dogma is still blessed with water-into-wine performances, pop culture gags, postmodern self-referencing and stoopid shagging jokes. Though it may not be wholly miraculous, this is still a righteous movie; and, in comparison with the average big-buck formulaic Hollywood evil, it's practically saintly.
On the DVD: Dogma's budget outstripped the early Smith films by miles, and the 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen transfer does it justice, with divine colour and heavenly sound. The picture quality of the extras--including trailers, TV spots and cast and crew interviews--is not so good and pixilation occurs throughout. The interviews are provocative enough, though, giving huge insight into the film. And it's quite something to see Smith looking all "Clark Kent" in his civvies. --Paul Eisinger
DVD Cinema Club, ccd9108, PAL Region 2