top of page
  • Writer's pictureStephen Yanni

Dogma - Still Controversial, Still good.

Rating: ★★★★☆ (4/5 Stars)

Released 11-12-1999

Watched 07-20-2023

Reviewed 07-23-2023

Watched on DVD, Available Buy Now

"Noah was a drunk. Look what he accomplished. And no one's even asking you to build an arc. All you have to do is go to New Jersey."

Even after nearly a quarter of a century, Kevin Smith's 1999 film "Dogma" continues to provoke intense debate and discussion, maintaining its controversial status in the annals of cinematic history. This film, a bold satirical commentary on religion, particularly Catholicism, teetered on the delicate line between sacrilege and satire. Some audiences lauded its audacious humor and theological questioning, while others found it offensive and blasphemous. Aspects of the film, like the presentation of a female God, a 13th apostle excluded because he was Black, and the irreverent portrayal of biblical figures, all underscored Smith's willingness to critique established religious norms in a way that resonated then and still strikes a chord today. The below review which I wrote in 2001, astutely addressed these elements of "Dogma" and remains as relevant today as it was back then. It anticipated the enduring dialogues and debates that the film continues to ignite, truly encapsulating the film's timeless, controversial appeal. Please enjoy my 2001 review of Dogma.

I love it when films are controversial; they are just so much more fun to write about. Even before receiving Dogma, I received an e-mail from a "concerned" person stating that this movie "is a sacrilege to all good Christians and is very insulting." The filmmakers, probably foreseeing this type of reaction, even go so far as to put this warning at the beginning of the DVD:

"Though it'll go without saying ten minutes or so into these proceedings, View Askew would like to state that this film is - from start to finish - a work of comic fantasy, not to be taken seriously. To insist that any of what follows is incendiary or inflammatory is to miss our intention and pass undue judgment, and passing judgment is reserved for God and God alone (this goes for you film critics, too…just kidding). So please - before you think about hurting someone over this trifle of a film, remember: even God has a sense of humor. Just look at the Platypus. Thank you, and enjoy the show."

Now that I have given equal opportunity to both sides of this issue, I will add my somewhat professional opinion to the mix. While this story is "comic fantasy," it does have some elements of twisted realism. However, while some will claim that these are sacrilege or heresy, I take a different point of view. If you break the movie down to its simplest form, what you end up with is a woman whose faith has been shattered. No longer believing in God when she is offered an assignment to help save the world, her faith in God is restored, and she is rewarded for it. Does not sound like a bad lesson to me! While I can understand some of you being concerned with the way that prophets, angels, and the church are portrayed, the underlying message, good vs. evil and God's power, is not truly undermined here. My guess is that part of the problem is that many of the people that criticize and boycott movies (or anything for that matter) have never even seen the picture in question; they are relying purely on hearsay. This, in my opinion, is more of a crime than anything ever displayed on the big screen.

This is the story of two fallen angels, Bartleby (Ben Affleck) and Loki (Matt Damon), who have been banished forever from the kingdom of God due to their defiance of him (they are banished not to the fires of hell, however, but to someplace much worse, Wisconsin…) When they find a "loophole" in Catholic Dogma (dog·ma (dôgm, dg-) n., pl. dog·mas or dog·ma·ta (-m-t).1. Theology. A doctrine or a corpus of doctrines relating to matters such as morality and faith set forth in an authoritative manner by a church. 2. An authoritative principle, belief, or statement of ideas or opinion, especially one considered to be absolutely true) that would allow them to return to heaven even without God's approval, they are quick to attempt to seize the opportunity, even if they have to travel to New Jersey. The only problem is that if they succeed with their re-entry, all existence as we know it will be undone (black will be white, up will be down, etc.)

To stop this travesty from happening, Metatron (the angel that speaks for God, played by Alan Rickman) calls upon the last scion, Bethany Sloane (Linda Fiorentino), to intercede. To help her on this quest, two prophets join her, the missing 13th apostle and a muse (Jason Mewes, Kevin Smith, Chris Rock, and Salma Hayek, respectfully). It is a "quote-filled" road trip, ending with the biggest surprise God since George Burns.

Want even more controversy? Why is Dogma not streaming, you ask?

Dogma is not available to stream or purchase digitally because the film's rights are owned by Bob and Harvey Weinstein. The deal predates streaming. A movie about Angels owned by the devil himself? Perhaps.

Kevin Smith, the director of Dogma, has said that Harvey Weinstein is "holding it hostage." Smith has asked his lawyers to look into the matter.


bottom of page