Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Kevin Smith's 'Dogma' an Irreverent, Uneven Satire

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Kevin Smith's 'Dogma' an Irreverent, Uneven Satire

Article excerpt

All human existence will end in a few seconds, but a New Jersey hospital has matters under control. The voice over the loudspeaker calmly goes through its mantra:

"I repeat: This is not a drill. This is the apocalypse. Please exit the hospital in an orderly fashion."

Nice gag. And it's clearly the work of Kevin Smith, the Orson Welles of the badlands of northern New Jersey, the writer, director and star (OK, dependable supporting actor) of his own highly idiosyncratic movies.

In Clerks and Mallrats he nailed the lifestyles of the stoned slacker dropouts of crumbling suburbia, while in Chasing Amy he got sweet and raunchy in telling of a straight man (Ben Affleck) who falls for a lesbian and gets her to change teams, if only for a while.

All have been uneven, with production values that range from home video to run-of-the- mill sitcom. But all of them, even the much-maligned Mallrats, had their hilarious moments.

His latest, Dogma, is no different. But it's bound to get get more attention -- and already has -- for its irreverent and sometimes over-the-top satire on religion, Catholicism in particular.

Where to start?

How about with George Carlin? Here he's Cardinal Glick, head of the Vatican-approved "Catholicism WOW!" campaign. This crowd-pleasing effort to perk up the church's image comes complete with pop-art posters and a statue of a grinning, winking "Buddy Christ," giving a big thumbs-up (the anguished Christ on a crucifix gives us "the willies," after all).

Or Linda Fiorentino as Bethany, a modern woman who, it turns out, has close family See 'DOGMA', Page E-7

ties to Jesus -- but who now works in an abortion clinic?

Or an angel working as a stripper (Salma Hayek)? She's a muse who, among other things, has provided heavenly inspiration for 19 of the top 20 grossing films of all time. The exception was Home Alone -- someone sold their soul for that one.

Or how about Chris Rock as the heretofore unheralded 13th apostle? He's come back to Earth to correct a major omission in the Bible (Jesus was black).

Then there's Affleck and his buddy Matt Damon, fallen angels who've been banished to Wisconsin for all eternity. But now they've found a loophole: Church dogma allows them back into heaven if they can get through the arch of a New Jersey cathedral.

There's one catch. If they pull it off, it will prove God fallible. And all existence will end.

The renegade angels don't care, though: They've been stewing in the land of cheeseheads for far too long.

It's a combustible combination of elements, clearly designed to tweak and offend. Smith, anticipating that, includes a lengthy disclaimer before the movie pointing out that it's "a work of comedic fantasy, not to be taken seriously."

Even so, Miramax dropped the movie after vehement protests from a Catholic anti-defamation group; independent distributor Lions Gate Films eventually picked it up. …

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