Dogma is one of Kevin Smith's most controversial films, a smartly written comedy that takes jabs against the Catholic Church and religion in general and it is very much a cult classic which my friends from college raved about.
Bethany (Linda Fiorentino) is a catholic woman who works in an abortion clinic who is given a mission from Metatron (Alan Rickman), the Voice of God, to go church in New Jersey. She has to stop two fallen angels, Loki (Matt Damon) and Bartleby (Ben Affleck) who have found a loophole that they can re-enter Heaven: but if they do that they would destroy all of existence because God's word is meant to be infallible. Fortunately (or unfortunately) Bethany is joined by Jay and Silent Bob (Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith), the thirteenth apostle, Rufus (Chris Rock) as Loki goes on a killing spread and a demon called Azreal (Jason Lee) tries to make Loki and Bartleby success in their objective.
Dogma is a sharply written comedy that is constantly funny. Smith makes a dialogue driven comedy filled with comical exchanges and great character inactions. Smith's trademarks of film related dialogue and jokes at the expense of Jay, but the best parts is the satire of religion and his showcasing of knowledge of Catholicism, combined with clever lines about the religion.
Sometimes Smith does stand on his soapbox about religion, but for the most part the satirical jabs are one target. We get satire from all angles from a Cardinal trying to get the church to appeal to younger worshipper, by doing it in the most patronising way, including a 'hey Jesus' and comic book art for its title 'Catholicism Wow'. There are criticisms about how The Bible has be rewritten to suit certain groups, with the Bible being whitewashed (though ignoring that Jesus and the apostles would have mostly have been of Middle-Eastern appearance) and women having villainous roles.
Affleck and Damon were great together as the fallen angels, having great dialogue and discussions, particularly in the beginning and a scene in a boardroom for a children's character. Alan Rickman was also a comedy highlight, playing against type as the Voice of God, someone who has great lines and adds serious emotion depth when needed. He added gravitas and gave the role his all.
Kevin Smith has often stated that he thinks he is not a particular good director, but with Dogma he is able to keep a fast pace, he knows how to shoot the dialogue sequences and can add a scene of tension when needed (i.e. the boardroom scene). Smith is competent with the action sequence at the end and he knows how to use his bloodpacks. The general look and tone of the film where Reaper (which Smith directed the pilot) got its influences from.
The film does occasional take a misstep, such as Smith being at time very preachy and there is a demon made from faecal matter which was very immature and out of place for a smartly written film.
On a final note, Howard Shore of the Lord of the Rings fame provided the score for Dogma and much his other work he gives Dogma a top score. He uses plenty of choir beats and singers to add to the experience.
Dogma is a highly enjoyable comedy that is intelligently written and very funny. It is a film deserving of its cult classic status.