Film Scouts on the Riviera 1999


by Thom Bennett

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Starring: Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Linda Fiorentino, Chris Rock, Alan Rickman, Jason Lee, Salma Hayek, Jason Mewes, George Carlin, Kevin Smith
Produced by Scott Mosier.
Written and directed by Kevin Smith.
Distributed by Lions Gate

So, what exactly is all the hubbub about anyway?

Kevin Smith gives a new meaning to 'divine comedy' with his fourth and most accomplished film to date - the hilarious and irreverently reverent "Dogma" - one of the year's best films.

Much has been said of late about both Smith and his religious comedy (mostly by those who have not done him the service of having actually seen the film). There was even a demonstration outside the New York Film Festival screening, denouncing the film, sight unseen. As is the case with all things that wind up muddled in unwarranted controversy, a cloud of hype may mask a lack of any real substance.

This is hardly the case with "Dogma" - a brilliant comedy and morality tale that manages to transcend the controversy that has surrounded it. The story involves two fallen angels (Damon and Afflkeck) who come upon a scheme that will allow them to re-enter heaven and, in turn, bring humanity to an end. Chosen by God to stop them and save mankind are an abortion clinic worker (Fiorentino) and the dynamic duo of pot-smoking prophets, Jay and Silent Bob (Mewes and Smith).

A self-confessed potty-mouth, Kevin Smith's films have never attempted to shy away from generous helpings of vulgarity. It is however, his sharp wit and uncanny ability to write the way that most people (religious fanatics apparently withstanding) speak. It is hardly as milquetoast as Charlton Heston descending a mountain with a set of tablets in hand, however "Dogma" manages to exhibit a deep knowledge of not only the bible, but also the tenets of Christianity throughout the ages. Smith (incidentally, a practicing Catholic) skillfully weaves this leap of faith story out of equal parts satire and respect. Not pulling any punches, "Dogma" still manages to get to the heart of what true faith is and how a person sometimes reaches a point where they call their faith into question - something most people can relate to at some time in their lives.

When all is said and done, it would serve many of Smith's accusers well to actually sit down and watch "Dogma" and take heed of the lesson it has to offer instead of merely jumping to conclusions based on a lot of rhetoric and rumor. It is rather reactionary and more than a bit ironic that they would pass judgement on something without benefit of knowing what it is about - even going so far as to direct threats to the makers of the film because they choose to be ignorant of the facts.

He who is without sin... Judge not, lest ye be judged... Where have I heard that before? I think it was from a book that I read somewhere.

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