Dogma is the latest release in a series of movies that tries to illustrate the farce that is organised religion, while at the same time touting the virtues of faith and the idea of god.

Bartleby (Ben Affleck) and Loki (Matt Damon) are two angels who have been cast down to Earth by god when Loki, the avenging angel, decided he wasn't going to be the instrument of god's wrath anymore, thanks to Bartleby's humane reasoning. When a Cardinal in New Jersey (George Carlin) decides to put some vigour into the Catholic institution by making it possible for all sinners to be forgiven for their sins (and, among other things, introducing the Buddy Jesus who winks at you with a smile that's straight out of a Disney cartoon), Bartleby and Loki see this as a chance to return home.

There is one problem: if they do return to heaven, it would go against god's word, and thus negate all existence as we know it since god is infallible. (This idea is central to the plot, as it were, but being infallible tautologically is itself a fallibility.) Except of course, when god takes human form. In this form, god can be "imprisoned" and this is exactly what Azrael (Jason Lee) does when god decides to visit Earth to play some ski-ball. Azrael's motive is revenge, and it's up to Metatron (Alan Rickman), the voice of god, and Bethany (Linda Fiorentino), the Last Scion, i.e., Jesus' (great)^n grand niece, to stop the angels from reaching Jersey. They are aided by Rufus (Chris Rock), the thirteenth apostle who was forgotten because he was black; Serendipity (Salma Hayek), god's ex-muse; and Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (Kevin Smith), a staple in Smith's films.

One of the nice things about Dogma is that it delves deep into Christian mythology and illustrates how cool the stories are (as are stories of based on almost any religious mythology): Angels trying to make their way back to heaven. Other angels trying to stop them. Two guys trying to score. A god that tries (and fails doing) hand stands. Just like a comic book.

The casting and acting is generally excellent. Affleck and Damon have the right amount of chemistry between them, and maintain the right mixture of indignation against god's actions and a determined sense of purpose to get home. Jason Lee is a bit over the top, but he does fine as the primary villain. Linda Fiorentino carries out her role with perfect reluctance. The supporting actors, including including Alan Rickman, Chris Rock, Salma Hayek, Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith add a tremendous amount to the proceedings (and humour). I'd have preferred Emma Thompson (Smith's original casting) as god.

Dogma is hilarious for its irreverence of Catholicism, but also for making fun of Hollywood films. However, I have come to the conclusion that making fun of religion is not too hard, nor is it difficult to expose the ridiculous hypocrisies of religious doctrines. Director Kevin Smith however does introduce some novel humour, and for those who are comfortable poking fun at religion or delight in exposing its inanity will enjoy the film. For me, the film has shown one important truth: Given Morisette's casting as god, I finally understand why there is a reason the voice of god exists. Indeed, millions of humans have already gone crazy after hearing it.

Movie ramblings || Ram Samudrala ||