Dogma came out in 1999, so I should warn you that there will be spoilers in my review. If you haven’t seen it yet, you are missing out and should rectify the situation.
Dogma is a movie about what happens when angels try to return to heaven after God banished them. Or, if you squint and tilt your head, it could be the story of how Catholic Doctrine might bring about the end of everything. Or it’s the story of how hell is so bad that the destruction of everything seems like a legitimately good idea in comparison.
It features Bethany Sloane(the Last Scion), the Metatron, the Thirteenth Apostle Rufus, Azrael, Serendipity, Loki, Bartleby, The Triplets, Buddy Christ, God, Jay, and Silent Bob. It has an amazing cast of actors from the talented Linda Fiorentino and Selma Hayak to the late greats George Carlin and Alan Rickman.
This movie is so much fun. It hits all the nostalgia notes for me. I remember watching this movie for the first time and having my mind blown about the concept that God is a woman. I remember laughing at all the dumb poop jokes and feeling proud when I understood references. Now when I watch it, I still laugh at the poop jokes, feel proud when I understand a reference, and roll my eyes at some of the awful fashion choices of the 90s.
Some of the dialogue is slow at times, but most of the time it drives the plot. Towards the middle of the end, things get a little bogged down. But Alan Rickman saves the day and the movie moves on with relatively few hiccups.
This is a bittersweet movie for me. It is amazingly funny, progressive, and thought provoking. However it is heartbreaking to see two of my favorite dead actors in their prime. Dogma is the movie that introduced me to the magnificent Alan Rickman. One of my favorite memories of him as an actor is him removing his pants to show off his Ken doll like anatomy. Dogma also features George Carlin in his most memorable role since Mister Conductor on Shining Time Station.
Dogma passes the Bechdel test, if you don’t count God as a man. The Bechdel test requires that two female characters talk to each other about something other than men. Bethany opens up to her friend Liz and then later, the muse, Serendipity. Plus this movie points out something that I never realized about the bible. Not only was it written by men (which I already knew), but it blames women for a lot of stuff, starting with Original Sin.
Race wise, Dogma kind of flops. Chris Rock, Rufus the Thirteenth Apostle who was left out of the bible because he was black, is the only African American actor with a speaking role in the movie. Salma Hayek, Serendipity the muse/stripper, is the only Mexican American actor with a speaking role. Linda Fiorentino, Bethany the Last Scion, is the only ethnically ambiguous actor with a speaking role. Everyone else is white. More racial diversity would be appreciated.
I like the locations in the movie. Each place does not look like a movie location. Instead it looks like a place you would see in your everyday life. Bethany’s bedroom looks cozy but cramped. It has just the right amount of clutter for it to look lived in, but not as though the set designer was looking to fill space. The churches that they visit scream “American cathedrals.
There are a few times that I really wanted subtitles. During intense scenes, the actors use a soft voice and sometimes the dialogue gets lost. During dialogue, there is no background music, but there are background noises, like rain falling or someone cleaning dishes, but even when it was silent, there would just be mumbling. I suspect that I missed some jokes because of this.
If you have rigidly held religious beliefs, this is not your movie. It questions and even mocks organized religion in a way that is very pointed. I would recommend it for people who either are more fluid in their spirituality or can take a joke.
For me, it’s a movie that holds up pretty well for being 17 years old.
4 out of 5 stars