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Anytime someone makes a movie about religion that doesn't take a wholly reverential approach, they’re asking for controversy. Such is the case with a writer/director Kevin Smith's DOGMA ($30). DOGMA was steeped in controversy long before it opened, and for this reason, the film's original distributor dropped it, for fear of what it would do to the wholesome family image of its parent company. Of course, DOGMA found a new distributor and the feared protests over the film's content didn't amount to all that much. During the course of the movie, Smith certainly tweaks people’s noses in a humorous fashion, but there is nothing in DOGMA that is particularly offensive or blasphemous. Heck, I really enjoyed DOGMA a lot and found myself laughing at the film’s numerous hilarious moments. By the way, I think that there is something very appealing about Smith's concept of the "Buddy Christ" which seems to be a lot more "user friendly" than the way Christ is usually portrayed in religious icons.

DOGMA tells the story of to fallen Angels named Bartleby (Ben Affleck) and Loki (Matt Damon), who find a loophole that will allow them back into heaven. Unfortunately for the rest of us, should the two fallen angels exercise that loophole, it will negate all of existence. The job of stopping the two Angels from carrying out their plan falls to a young woman named Bethany (Linda Fiorentino), who over the course of time, has managed to lose her faith. Assisting Bethany on her quest are two latter day profits from New Jersey named Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (Kevin Smith), plus a never before heard of thirteenth apostle (Chris Rock), an out of work Muse (Salma Hayek) and the Voice of God (Alan Rickman). Even with all the help, Bethany finds that stopping the two determined Angels isn't going to be easy. The cast of DOGMA also includes George Carlin, Jason Lee, Bud Cort and Alanis Morissette.

Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment has made the Special Edition of DOGMA available in a 2.35:1 wide screen presentation that has been enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays. Overall, DOGMA is presented on DVD in a very good-looking transfer. Brightly lit and daylight sequences are very sharp and well defined. However, some of the interiors and the darker moments of the film do take on a somewhat softer appearance. Colors are bright and quite vivid, plus the flesh tones are rendered and a completely convincing manner. Despite the intensity of some of the hues, colors of rock solid and are reproduced without any signs of chroma noise or smearing. Blacks are right of the money, plus the level of shadow detail is quite good. The film element used the transfer is in virtually pristine condition, with no objectionable blemishes or discernible grain. First-rate authoring keeps all traces of digital compression artifacts out of sight.

Since DOGMA is pretty much a dialogue driven film the Dolby digital 5. 1 channel soundtrack isn’t one that anyone would use the show off the qualities of their audio system. The forward soundstage does have some directions activity, with a number of sound effects being well deployed. Surround usage is somewhat more limited, with occasional effects and musical fill finding their way towards the back. Dialogue is always completely understandable, but although there is an occasional line here and there where the actors voices sound somewhat looped. As it turns out, the bass channel proves to be rather forceful when presented with the opportunity. English, French and Spanish Dolby surround sound tracks are also encoded on to the DVD, as are English, French and Spanish subtitles.

Full motion video, animation and sound enhance the DVD's rather amusing interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the two-disc set’s complement of supplemental features. On disc one we find, Kevin Smith, Jason Mewes, Ben Affleck, Jason Lee, producer Scott Mosier and View Askew historian Vincent Pereira participating a running audio commentary that is augmented video hijinks. Of course, to view the video hijinks, one will have to follow the "Buddy Christ" and press a button on their remote control to access the video portion. This commentary is highly entertaining and quite funny, but lacks any sort of technical depth, that is why the DOGMA also includes a second audio commentary featuring Smith, Mosier and Pereira. Fortunately, the second does deliver a good deal of entertainment value, in addition to covering the film itself in far more detail.

Moving on to the second disc, fans will find an amazing ONE HUNDRED MINUTES worth of deleted scenes and extended versions of scenes already in the theatrical cut of the film. The excised material features oftentimes hilarious video introductions by director Smith, as well as various other personalities from View Askew, in addition to Smith’s wife and baby daughter. The extensive deleted material doesn’t look as good as the film proper, but it is all worth seeing. Also included on the second disc is almost fifteen minutes of outtakes, goofs and gaffs. As you might expect, there is plenty of amusing material here to tickle fans’ funny bones. Complete sets of storyboards from three separate sequences in the film are also provided on disc two, as are talent files, a theatrical trailer and a shameless promotion for Jay and Silent Bob's Secret Stash (which is located in New Jersey- surprise).

Without question, DOGMA is Kevin Smith’s most ambitious film. It is also an inspired comedy that does take more than a few shots at religious concepts. I don’t think the controversy that surrounded the film was really justified. For my money, DOGMA is an absolute blast. This is the kind of movie that will appeal to anyone who likes to laugh, regardless of religious affiliations. Columbia TriStar’s DVD presentation of DOGMA looks great and sounds just fine, plus the supplements are truly excellent. So, if you haven’t picked up the plain vanilla version, you will definitely want to run out and get the DOGMA SE DVD ASAP.


Dogma (Special Edition)


DVD reviews are Copyright 2001 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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