Reviewed By Duke of Fluke
Posted 12/15/99 20:47:14

"He hasn't sold out yet - Praise Jesus!"
5 stars (Awesome)

It was a bastard trying to get to see this one before everyone else, but Alanis was on my side, and I made it. One failed competition, five trains, five hours sleep, four hours travelling time, one taxi and the world's shortest visit to the City of Cambridge (where, bizarrely, it was snowing) and I made it. It was worth it.

Writer, Director and sometime star Kevin Smith's fourth and biggest movie to date, Dogma, has been making headlines. Controversy, Christianity and Canadians stole some of them, while people who'd actually seen the the film spoke of coolness, characters and Christ, what a cast. For starters, there's everyone's double act of the hour (no, not Hanks and Ryan - get it together, will ya?) Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, playing angels banished to Wisconsin for all eternity. Fortunately for them, someone has sent them information about a new loophole in Catholic law which could conceivably let them back into heaven, and it's not a plan that God endorses given that if they make it, God will be proved fallable and all existence will cease. Just to throw a few more spanners into the works, there are demons abroad, headed up by Azreal (the outstanding Jason Lee) and his hockey-playing Stygian triplets.

God does have a countermeasure, in the form of Linda Fiorentino, playing the jaded Bethany, who seems to question her faith on a daily basis. Enter Alan Rickman, as the decidedly unangelic Metatron (the Voice of God) who charges her with a holy crusade - stop the rebel angels. Oh, she'll get help along the way, of a kind, from Rufus, the 13th disciple (Chris Rock), the stripping Muse, Serendipity (Salma Heyek) and, of course, the double act that outshines even the golden Boys, Jay and Silent Bob.

After all the expectation, Smith delivers. The script is flawless as usual, the beautifully realised characters delivering lines both comic and intelligent. There are in-jokes on about four different levels, ranging from classic references to cool stuff (another perennial Star Wars mention) to cameos from the View Askew faithful (the ever expanding Hicks family shows off their most famous son, a TV reporter) to gags that only the most dedicated Smith fans will get (a suggestion - check out the Jay & Silent Bob 4-part mini-series to enrich the content of all 4 Smith films). For the most part, the religious content is handled sympathetically and gracefully. Smith continues to be incapable of writing cliches while at the same time making jokes so purile and tasteless that they ought to make a new Oscar category. The Jasons Lee and Mewes both show how they've grown (Mewes especially) and more than fill the screen with quality. Alanis Morrisette rings the only alarm bells, but then she's got a difficult role (God, okay?). Personally, I think only Scandinavian nutball Bjork could bring that sort of otherworldliness to the screen, but we'll let her off.

If you believe, then this is a must-see movie. If you don't, then it won't send you sprinting towards the nearest confession booth, but you'll find it refreshing to see a film about God that a) doesn't have anything to do with Charlton Heston and b) isn't dripping with smugness and sentiment. Look at the competition - Almost An Angel. Michael. City Of Remakes. Yeah right. In terms of quality, it's up there with the rest of Smith's work and Life of Brian. Outstanding.

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