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. Final Movie Grade: B THE DVD FEATURES
After months of delay, the “”Dogma: Special Edition”” finally hits stores. Smith, who previously bashed the DVD technology on a laser disc commentary, has set a precedent now of devoting enormous amounts of time and energy into the discs of his films. “”Dogma”” is no different, packaged by Columbia TriStar in a tight two-disc set packed with multiple commentaries, storyboards, deleted scenes and more.The majority of the extras are found on disc two. The DVD boasts over 100 minutes of unfinished deleted scenes, so they look rough when compared to the film. Each is introduced by Smith and his View Askew cronies, and provides great insight into why they were left out. There’s a short reel of outtakes, mostly consisting of the cast laughing at each other’s jokes. And for technophiles, Smith has mapped out 3 scenes from the film, including the massacre at Mooby headquarters, on storyboards.But the main reason to buy a Smith DVD is the commentaries, and “”Dogma”” doesn’t disappoint. Smith recruits Mewes, Affleck, Jason Lee, producer Scott Mosier and more in a room to go over the film, often allowing you to spy on them using a multi-angle function on your DVD remote. The jokes aren’t as sharp as on the “”Mallrats”” disc, mainly because “”Dogma”” is a bit more serious of a film. However, for those seeking relevant commentary on the filmmaking process, a second track was recorded by Smith and his crew to discuss the ins and outs of the technical side of filming a movie of this scope. DVD Features Grade: B+OVERALL EXPERIENCE
Fans of the film will love all of the extras they get with “”Dogma,”” as long as they find the time to watch them. Smith keeps the disc interesting, painting the menus with Mooby graphics and splicing in clips of a rude old protestor who lectures you at every turn. Too much, of course, is never enough, but “”Dogma”” does deliver more than enough for your buck. Final Package Grade: B+