Kevin Smith’s religious roller coaster ride, “”Dogma,”” hits video shelves with nary a hint of the controversy that escorted it into theaters. Plagued by protestors, the film won high praise from critics and fans, alienated close minded Christians and finished its box office run with an approximate $30 million tally.
So who was right? Is “”Dogma,”” with its “”Buddy Christ”” and its African American 13th apostle, a sacrilegious dig on the Catholic Church? Or is it an immature take on faith translated through the eyes of a devout Christian director who also enjoys fart humor? The answer, taken with a grain of salt, is both.THE FILM Smith himself grows as a director with “”Dogma.”” Already known for his keen dialogue and sharp wit, Smith proves he can tackle tougher subjects than falling for a lesbian or spending a day at the mall, and still inject his trademark testosterone humor. The key is his cast, predominantly played by Smith devotees who make a habit of appearing in the director’s films. The story involves two fallen angels, Loki (Matt Damon) and Bartleby (Ben Affleck), who are cast out of Heaven when they question the Lord. The angels discover a loophole that might allow them to re-enter paradise, but they first have to pass through the doors of a certain church in Red Bank, NJ. What they don’t know is that if they complete the act, they will have proven God fallible, and that would wipe out all existence in the process. Bethany (Linda Fiorentino), the last descendant of Christ, is chosen by the Lord to prevent the angels from entering the church, but she’s not asked to do it alone. God also sends Rufus, the 13th apostle (Chris Rock) and two would-be prophets, Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (Smith), to accompany her on her journey. “”Dogma”” is certainly Smith’s most ambitious film. His knowledge of Catholic doctrine is evident, and his lessons rival those heard in a common Sunday sermon. The entire cast is game, though Damon and Affleck strike up the most casual chemistry, playing on their existing friendship. And the hilarious Mewes proves his sex-starved pot smoker Jay is more than a one-joke pony, as well. With “”Dogma,”” Smith gains credibility, casting the like of Rock, Fiorentino, George Carlin and Alan Rickman for supporting parts. His limitations remain behind the camera, but they’re overshadowed by his knowledgeable, assured screenplay.