Dogma (1999)
Main cast: Linda Fiorentino (Bethany), Chris Rock (Rufus), Jason Lee (Azrael), Matt Damon (Loki), Ben Affleck (Bartleby), Jason Mewes (Jay), Kevin Smith (Silent Bob), Salma Hayek (Serendipity), Alan Rickman (Metatron), and Alanis Morissette (God)
Director: Kevin Smith


It is a testament of the short-sightedness of the Catholic League to protest this movie. Just because the "angels" and the "apostles" cuss, it's a blasphemous movie. Okay, so it is, if you want to be rigid about these sort of things, but these angels ultimately perpetuate all that is good and pure about God. So what if Bethany, the last Scion or descendent of Jesus Christ, works in an abortion clinic? A girl's gotta do what she could to eat. Dogma is a mischievous, irreverent dig at the whole scheme of God and the Church, even as it also pays tribute to its greatness. If anything, this movie inspires belief more than it encourages blasphemy. Obviously it is William Donohue and his gang, not the Catholic God, who lacks a sense of humor.

Loki is the Angel of Death cast out of heaven (which explains why there is no genocide of mass proportion like that one that smite every first born in Egypt) when he protested his duty at the instigation of his angelic best friend, the Watcher Bartleby. Now these two spend their days on Earth loitering at airports and verbally seducing nuns into running away with the money they've collected for the Church to buy themselves a new dress and find a good man or woman to settle down with. Somewhat frighteningly logical way of reasoning, if you ask me. Then one day, when a church attempts to gain more publicity and start a new revitalization of Catholicism by resurrecting an archaic Catholic practice of plenary indulgence (by which one is absolved of all sin by merely walking into the church), these two have a great idea: they'd walk through it and voila! Destination Heaven.

There's a flaw, of course. Should these angels succeed, that will prove that God's Words are fallible, and that will destroy the whole skein of existence. They must be stopped. To do this, Metatron, weary, exhausted, and longing for a tequila, has to convince Bethany to stop them. Bethany picks up two prophets who cuss worse than a sailor missing his shore leave and are always trying to get into her pants. Then comes Ruffus, the forgotten 13th Apostle who also cusses like a sailor on shore leave trapped in a deserted island and maintains that Jesus is Black. Salma Hayek is a muse who works as a stripper and declares that God is female. The bishop of the church above plays golf using the holy chalice as a hole.

All in great fun, of course. Even when the movie reaches an all-time low in toilet humor (you have to see the demons made from excretion!), it never loses its spiritual core. Loki and Bartleby are actually sensitively portrayed as misguided angels that lose their faith only because of the agony of being cut off from God and being made to suffer the emptiness in their souls for a millennium. And in the end, they find their salvation in believing. In fact, all the characters find their redemption in faith, and they emerge stronger for it. These people question, they decry their destiny, and they struggle at their own faith (or lack of), but in the end, they - and I, the audience - learn that God is the only thing that matters. Or rather, it's not faith, for faith implies blind worship, but the idea of believing even as we question, that counts.

So why the great fuss about Dogma being anti-God? It is a wonderfully acted, sensitively written story of faith for the modern skeptical audience like me. Witty, funny, with the perfect amount of sarcasm mixed with right intention, this is the best movie I've seen so far this year. Bad words don't imply blasphemy. This movie has heart in all the right places, and to me, that's all that counts.

Rating: 99


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