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Dogma (1999)

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 3/11/2008

All Ratings out of
Movie: 1/2
Video: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 3/10/2008

I don't want to get too personal here (yeah, like I'm going to stop now...), but 1994 was a very rough year for me, and few things could lift my spirits. It was during this time that I discovered a little movie entitled Clerks. This film, about a slacker convenience store clerk and his even lazier video store employee friend, spoke to me about taking control of one's life. From that point, I became an admirer of writer/director Kevin Smith. (Note that I didn't say "fan", as I don't want to be lumped in with the rabid View Askew devotees.) I liked the goofiness of Mallrats, and I enjoyed the raw look at relationships in Chasing Amy. But, nothing could prepare me for Smith's opus Dogma, which has now come to Blu-ray Disc.

Dogma opens with the story of two angels, Bartleby (Ben Affleck) and Loki (Matt Damon), who were cast out of Heaven and banished to Wisconsin for disobeying God. They learn that a Catholic church in New Jersey is having a rededication to celebrate it's 100th anniversary. Due to a loophole in religious dogma, anyone who walks through the doors of the church will be forgiven of their sins. Bartleby convinces Loki that by visiting this church, they can get back into Heaven. Unfortunately, if they succeed, they will undo all of existence. An abortion clinic worker named Bethany (Linda Fiorentino) is tapped by Metatron, the voice of God (Alan Rickman) to stop the angels. She is soon joined by Jay (Jason Mewes) and Sillent Bob (Kevin Smith), the bumbling drug-dealers from New Jersey, and they begin their journey. It's not long until they meet Rufus (Chris Rock), who has also been sent from Heaven to help. Rufus was the 13th apostle and is still angry that he's been left out of the Bible. Bethany and her cohorts make their way to New Jersey, unsure how they are going to stop the angels, or the hordes of demons who are standing in their way.

It would be a grave understatement to say that Dogma is unlike anything that Kevin Smith had made before. The man who was known for small, raunchy character studies suddenly springs this sprawling Biblical epic on us. The movie features many characters, multiple locations (not just a convenience store or a mall!), and special effects. Yes, special effects in a Kevin Smith movie! There are monsters and fight scenes. On top of all of these theatrics, we have the incredibly complex and deep script which goes far beyond goobers sitting around yakking about Star Wars and sex. And obviously, the movie questions religion and the Catholic church, so it's more serious than Smith's previous efforts.

And yet, if someone familiar with Clerks, Mallrats, and Chasing Amy suddenly came across Dogma, they would immediately wonder if Kevin Smith was behind the film, because, despite the (somewhat) grandiose nature of the film, it has the feel of a Smith movie. Obviously, the presence of Jay and Silent Bob ties Dogma into Smith's other movies, but Affleck, Damon and Jason Lee have also appeared in other Smith films. However, it's the dialogue which is a dead giveaway. The rapid-fire chatter, which is laced with profanity and cultural references, is unmistakably Smith.

All of these elements make Dogma a different breed of movie and one which nearly succeeds. The movie certainly has some very funny moments and these laughs solidify Smith's reputation as someone who has an ear for humorous dialogue. As with Smith's other movies, the film is filled with lines which are very quotable. The plot concerning the angels who want to return to Heaven and the other deities who want to stop them is certainly interesting and very creative. But, the two halves don't always gel and the movie drags at times. The mid-section of the movie has some scenes which literally feel like they go on forever. The ending is also somewhat odd and unsatisfying. The bottom-line is that with Dogma we are watching a still young (Smith was 29 when he made the movie and much younger when he first conceived it) director stretching his wings (if you will) and trying something different. Dogma isn't my favorite Smith movie (Clerks still holds that title), but it's entertaining and undoubtedly unique.

Dogma makes a divine entrance on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the disc holds an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 30 Mbps. I've found that movies which are even a few years old don't always look that great on Blu-ray, but Dogma is an exception. Things don't being very promisingly, as the first shot is riddled with grain. But, after that, the image is very sharp and clear, showing only minute grain at times and no overt defects from the source material. The image is very detailed and the sharpness of the image is instantly noticeable. The colors look fantastic, as the reds, blues, and greens really "pop". The exterior shots show a nice amount of depth. I've never really thought of Dogma as a "visual" movie, but this transfer really enhances the image. The disc has a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.0 Mbps. This track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are very good and detailed, as we can distinctly hear every little sound. The surround and subwoofer effects really come into play during the finale, but they are most impressive during the scenes on-board the train, as we hear and feel the train rumbling by.

The Dogma Blu-ray Disc contains an assortment of extra features. The Disc contains two AUDIO COMMENATRIES. The first features writer/director Kevin Smith, producer Scott Mosier, View Askew historian Vincent Periera, and actors Ben Affleck, Jason Mewes, Jason Lee. While this track isn't as good as the one found on Chasing Amy, it's still entertaining. In between information about the movie, the guys crack jokes and make fun of one another. While Lee doesn't say much and what Mewes says in unintelligible, Affleck and Smith have some very good banter. The second -- the Technical Commentary -- has Kevin Smith, Producer Scott Mosier, and View Askew historian Vincent Pereira. This is meant to be a more "serious" track, but it's funny as well. The trio do manage to impart a lot of info about the movie including shooting locations, changes to the script, and the on-set environment. The Disc contains 16 DELETED SCENES which run about 97 minutes (!) and are introduced by Smith and Pereira (and later on, Mosier)...which is probably why the running time is so long. The scenes are letterboxed at 2.35:1, but they are not 16 x 9. The extended versions of scenes which exist in the film often contain only a smattering of new footage, so we are forced to sit through something we've already seen. There's no denying that there are some funny moments, but many of them fall squarely into the realm of self-indulgence. The Disc has 13 minutes of OUTTAKES. There are STORYBOARDS for three scenes. And speaking of self-indulgence, the final extra is a commercial for "Jay and Silent Bob's Secret Stash", a store owned by Smith. While the Blu-ray Disc offers a superior audio/video transfer, the physical packaging isn't as nice as the special edition DVD, which featured a faux-Bible DVD case inside of a slipcover. Also absent are the extensive liner notes by Smith which accompanied the DVD.

Review Copyright 2008 by Mike Long