Break out the popcorn and candy, Persephoneers, because it’s time for another MOVIES WITH A SIDE OF NERD! :D This time, we delve into a film that combines blue humor, religious faith, and a whole lot of nerdy Easter-eggs into a smoothie full of awesome. Its name is Dogma.
Directed by Kevin Smith, this was the fourth feature film in what is known as the View Askewniverse: a universe of characters that recur throughout the related films and other pop-culture outlets (comics, TV, etc.), so named after Smith’s production company, View Askew. The only two characters that are in every project are Jay (a hilarious trash-talking stoner played expertly by Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob, his sidekick, played by Smith himself, who is usually, well, silent. (The handful of times he does speak, though, are usually intellectual.) Smith also tends to reuse actors in different roles throughout his universe. Examples include Ben Affleck and Jason Lee, among others.
Got the background? Good. Moving on. To understand the film, I actually have to give a little synopsis of the plot. Without giving away too much, I shall try to explain.
One of the main cruxes of this film is based in the Bible, specifically Matthew 18:18: “Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” In other words, if you believe it true on Earth, God will hold it true in Heaven. Sounds pretty harmless, doesn’t it? Not here. Two former angels who were cast out of Heaven after the great battle (Loki and Bartleby, as played by Matt Damon and Ben Affleck) have found a way to use this dogmatic premise as a way of getting themselves back in. A Catholic Church in New Jersey has decided to celebrate its centennial by enacting a plenary indulgence: that is, simply by entering through the doors of the Church, all sins are forgiven and those who have done so will gain access to Heaven upon death. All they have to do is walk through the doors, cut off their wings, and die, and they will be sent back no matter what God has decreed. The problem with this? In the words of the Metatron (the angel Voice of God, played by Alan Rickman at his Alan Rickman-iest), “Existence, in all its form and splendor, functions solely on one principle: God is infallible. To prove Him wrong would undo reality and everything that is. Up would become down, black would become white, existence would become nothingness. In essence, if they’re allowed to enter that church, they’ll unmake the world.” It is now up to Bethany (Linda Fiorentino), a very doubting Catholic who is told to be the last scion of Christ, to stop them from doing it. To encourage the View Askew continuity, guess who the two “prophets” are that are supposed to help her? ;) (If you guessed Jay and Silent Bob, you’re correct.)
*Whew!* That shouldn’t give away too much. Now, to why I love this movie!
I am not religious AT ALL, so that is not what drew me to this movie. I must say, though, that it is definitely an attention-holder and would make anyone who is interested wish to research a bit deeper into the premise. What I do like is how Smith subtly and simultaneously asks the questions that most Christians tend to think but not ask (“Why are things so effed up if God is so great?”, etc.) and has two of his characters (Metatron and Rufus, the thirteenth apostle who was left out of the Bible because he was black, played by Chris Rock) try and answer them. Had I a belief in what they were saying, it probably would have served to bolster it.
The cast of characters is rather star-studded, at least to this nerd. Aside from those I have already mentioned, there is Jason Lee (also known as Earl from My Name is Earl, but without the bad hair and ‘stache), Salma Hayek, Alanis Morissette (yes, the singer), and the late, great George Carlin. I won’t tell you who they play – you’ll have to watch! – but I will say that they, along with the rest of the cast, are great in their roles. I couldn’t have chosen it better if I had tried.
The comedy here is rampant, but it’s PG-13 at its tamest. If you don’t mind gratuitous usage of foul language and sexual jokes (“Guys like us don’t fall out of the sky, you know! [Chris Rock falls from the sky] Big-titted naked women don’t just fall out of the sky, you know!”), you won’t have any problem laughing along with this movie.
The nerdy Easter-eggs are great to find here. I’m not going to give any of them away since that would spoil it, but suffice it to say that Kevin Smith has no qualms about letting his inner geek into his writing.
In the end, dear Persephoneers, I hereby give Dogma a MWSN rating of FFRF – Foul-mouthed, Fantastical Religious Funniness. I also warn you: do not watch this with any kids who are apt to parroting if you don’t want them swearing. THEY DO THAT A LOT. Until next time!