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DOGMA: SPECIAL EDITION

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Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Linda Fiorentino, Salma Hayek, Jason Lee, Chris Rock
Director: Kevin Smith
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Surround
Video: Widescreen 2.35:1 Anamorphic Transfer
Studio: Columbia Tri Star
Features: See Review
Length: 128 Minutes
Release Date: June 26, 2001

"I repeat, this is not a drill.  This is the Apocalypse.  Please exit the hospital in an orderly fashion.  Thank you..."

Film ****

Since his stellar 1994 debut with the indie-smash Clerks, director Kevin Smith has kept a strong track record, which is now at its highest point now with the director’s fourth film, Dogma. It is the director’s most daring, funniest and strongest piece yet. Smith tackles issues in most of his movies that most directors keep away from. If you exclude his second film, Mallrats, which was more in the John Hughes tradition, his two other movies included a social commentary on certain issues. With Clerks, Smith made the employees the hero of the movie, instead of the customer, who is supposed to be the right one. With his 97 release, Chasing Amy, he told a sweet and charming love story between a straight man and a gay woman. Now with Dogma, which was plagued with controversy months before it was even released, Smith takes on the most daring of issues: religion, and with it delivers a one of a kind, grand slam dose of satirical passion.

The film is clearly a comedic-fantasy, and I can assure you, dear reader, that this level of high praise doesn’t normally go to a movie of this kind, so you could call Dogma a first in that respect. The film centers around a pair of fallen angels named Bartleby and Loki, played by none other than Boston favorites Ben Affleck and Matt Damon. Currently residing to exile in, of all areas, Wisconsin, the two receive word that a loophole has been discovered at a church in Red Bank, New Jersey, and they can be accepted into heaven by way of it. However, if they are to do so, all existence will be destroyed. Nonetheless, two angels decide to cleanse the world of a few sinners before returning home.

Enter the heroine of the story, Bethany (Linda Fiorentino), who works at an abortion clinic, and is ironically, a catholic. She gets a startling visit from Metatron (Alan Rickman), God’s own personal messenger. He charges her with the task of getting to Jersey to stop the rebel angels, who by now are purchasing guns and knives to display God’s wrath upon local sinners. Bethany is sent help by the almighty one including a pair of prophets by the names of Jay and Silent Bob (ingenious, Mr. Smith!!!) Also sent to help is Rufus, the 13th apostle (Chris Rock), and a little help on side is given from a beautiful muse (Salma Hayek), who currently has a case of writer’s block.

Dogma includes some of the best performances of numerous cast members’ career. We'll start with Ben Affleck, excuse me, Mallrats’ Ben Affleck, who I think delivers his best work so far. He delivers his well-written dialogue with such flawless perfection, in what I can easily label as his most wonderful characterization to date. Damon is equally terrific, and surprisingly provides some of the film’s hilarity. When did you ever think you’d see Mr. Damon bellowing out a rendition of Run DMC’s "Whose House" after capping a guy in the head? For all the Jay and Silent Bob fanatics, myself included, they have their best moments in this New Jersey installment. The caricatures created by Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith have moments in this film that are likely to have you rolling in the aisles, or rather, falling of your couch. Such is the case when the heroes are attack by demon in a strip bar, and Jay’s encounter with God is a guaranteed classic moment.

At the heart of Dogma’s success is director Smith’s ability to spoof religion and make into a larger than life comedic romp. Smith took a definite chance tackling Roman Catholicism, since he is Roman Catholic himself. That level of irony shows how clever and sharp Smith is, and Dogma is another winner from Silent Bob, himself. 

Video ****

As I somewhat expected, there’s no huge difference in the video quality, as it is equally of pure top caliber as the original Dogma DVD was. The major difference, and a good one, is that Columbia Tri Star thankfully removed the standard version that was included on the original release. Of all of Kevin Smith’s films, Dogma without a doubt is the best transfer.

Audio ****

The same can be said for the audio department as well. Again, no distinctive difference, other than the notion that both a 2.0 Dolby Surround in both English and Spanish have been added on. Dogma also has the best audio quality of Smith’s films, which makes sense being that this movie was the director’s most technically challenging film to date.

Features ****

It’s been a long time coming since the original, feature-less first issue of Dogma came out on DVD. The disc which only featured only two trailers left something to be desired, while the audio and video quality were of pure perfection, and still are on this release. After several release date delays, the Special Edition is finally here, and will result in one of the best all around DVD releases of 2001, as well as by far the best packaged DVD which rivals another release, Unbreakable, which is being released, ironically on the same day and date.

A superb 2-disc set with all nice toppings that Kevin Smith fans have come to appreciate over the last couple of years. Featured on disc one are two commentary tracks, one featuring perhaps the best commentary group ever put together, Kevin Smith, Ben Affleck, Jason Lee, Jason Mewes, producer Scott Mosier, and View Askew historian Vincent Pereira. In the commentary, Smith confesses that this will likely be his last time doing a commentary for a DVD, though his reason remains a mystery. The best highlight of the commentary is when Smith begs Affleck to do a Denzel Washington impersonation, which he does do with a quote from Courage Under Fire, and it is simply flawless and absolutely hysterical. And like the commentary track for Mallrats, this one features an optional video caption where you are able to see images of the guys actually commenting on the movie as you are watching it. To use this option, select it from the features menu, and simply wait for the image of the Buddy Christ to pop up, then press enter on your remote control. Also included is a second commentary from a technical standpoint from Smith, Mosier and Pereira.

Disc 2 includes much more goodies, including over an hour and forty minutes worth of deleted scenes, which are really worth checking out, a bloopers reel, a storyboard to film comparison, a trailer, and a hilarious promo with Kevin Smith and Jason Mewes trying super hard to promote their store in Red Bank, NJ, Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash.

Summary:

Dogma is one of 1999’s greatest movies, which is worth noting because very rarely does a screwball like fantasy comedy ever make it on to my 10 best lists, but this one does because of it’s sharp and daring material. It is an ingenious comic fantasy that displays an expert filmmaker’s ability to challenge the viewer’s beliefs, or for that matter, share his beliefs with the audience, which is what I was feeling. If you admire Kevin Smith as much as I do, Dogma should be top on your must see list.