Unlikely Prophets

Dogma, the latest film by suburbia-focused auteur Kevin Smith (writer-director of Clerks, Mallrats, and Chasing Amy), is a unique and tender homage to an all-loving and good Creator.

It is also chock full of mangled theology, extremely obscene language, and, with a couple of exceptions, some pretty crummy acting.

The horde of Smith fans who enjoy his films for their ribald expressions and accurate urban sprawl scenarios will find similar scenery and dialogue (and the reappearance of Jay and Silent Bob, the idiotic dudes whose characters are woven into every Smith film), but they also will find questions about creation, God’s omnipotence, and human destiny.

Smith claims to be a devout Catholic; Dogma is part of his effort to understand his faith and to express his devotion to God. He deserves credit for addressing an issue that much of mainstream Hollywood prefers to ignore. However, he can’t seem to present a coherent message.

This is the gist of Dogma: A cardinal in New Jersey (George Carlin) decides to mark a one-day festival at his parish by granting general absolution to anyone who walks through the church doors on that particular day. Two forsaken angels, Bartleby and Loki (played by Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, whose acting abilities obviously are far superior to anyone else’s in the film)—who have been long exiled to Wisconsin for refusing to follow God’s orders—conclude that this means that they can walk through said doors, be forgiven their sin of disobedience, and then proceed directly back to heaven. However, what the angels don’t realize is that their potential return to paradise will prove that God was wrong when they were originally exiled, and since all creation was formed and currently exists due to the understanding that God is always right, if the angels walk through that New Jersey church threshold, all life as we know it will be nullified.

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Sojourners Magazine March-April 2000
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