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review added: 4/26/00
updated: 7/3/01




Dogma

review by Bill Hunt and Todd Doogan of The Digital Bits


Dogma: Special Edition

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Dogma
Special Edition - 1999 (2001) - Lions Gate/View Askew (Columbia TriStar)

Film Rating: B

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A-/B/A-

Specs and Features

Disc One: Mooby Egg-A-Moofin'
128 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at 1:14:06, in Chapter 20), double Amaray keep case packaging with slip case, audio commentary (with writer/director Kevin Smith, producer Scott Mosier, DVD co-producer and View Askew historian Vincent Pereira, stars Jason Lee, Jason Mewes and Ben Affleck), "Follow the Buddy Christ" feature, technical commentary (with Smith, Mosier and Pereira), messages from Mrs. Harriet Wise, "things to do instead of watching the movie", Easter Egg, animated film-themed menu screens with sound and music, scene access (28 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1 and 3.0), Spanish (DD 2.0) and French (DD 2.0), subtitles: English, French and Spanish, Closed Captioned

Disc Two: Hosties
16 deleted scenes (with introductions from Kevin Smith, Vincent Pereira, Harley Quinn Smith, Scott Mosier, Jennifer Smith and Jason Mewes), Jay and Silent Bob's Secret Stash store promo, outtakes, 3 storyboards, cast and crew biographies and filmographies, theatrical trailer, Easter Egg



Dogma

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Dogma
1999 (2000) - Lions Gate/View Askew (Columbia TriStar)

Film Rating: B

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A-/B/D-

Specs and Features

128 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 enhanced, full frame (1.33:1), dual-sided, single-layered, Amaray keep case packaging, 2 theatrical trailers (for Dogma and The Opposite of Sex), talent files, animated film-themed menu screens with music, scene access (28 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1) and French (DD 2.0), subtitles: English, French and Spanish, Closed Captioned


"I feel like Han Solo and you're Chewie and she's Ben Kenobi... and we're in that fucked-up bar!"

You know that moment when you've been drinking with your best friends, and you've got that good tequila buzz going, and you start talking about SERIOUS shit like the nature of Good and Evil, and the reason for the Universe, and it's all really great and you just GET it… and then the alcohol runs out and the buzz starts to fade, and the conversation goes on a bit too long, and everyone starts getting a little uncomfortable? Hold that moment in your mind, and imagine it as a movie, and that's Dogma in a nutshell. That's not to say that Dogma is bad, because it's not. Not at all. It's often extremely funny and even poignant at times… but sometimes it just derails itself a bit.

First things first, though - all that controversy this film stirred up with religious conservatives? Give me a break. Who cares. Let's face it… the Catholic Church, for all the good it does, has a bloodier history than any other organization that's ever existed in the whole of human civilization. You know why that is? The Church has no sense of humor. I mean, come on… if you can't laugh at yourself once in a while, what's the point, right? All I know is that I watched WAY too many people marching like lemmings on TV, complaining about this movie, and when they were asked if they'd seen it themselves, their universal response was, "Uh no… but I just know that I don't like it." Now THAT'S funny. If you're one of those people, I've probably already pissed you off. But here's a clue: God gave you a brain, folks. He (or she) probably wouldn't have done that unless he (or she) wanted you to think for yourselves once in a while. In any case, I take such things as proof positive that God has a great sense of humor. In my book, Dogma as a religious flash-point is a non-issue. In fact, I really dig what director Kevin Smith was trying to do here. But Dogma the film… well, it's a bit weak in the knees at times.

Let me quickly hit you up with the plot. Hollywood golden boys Ben Affleck and Matt Damon play a pair of fallen angels (Bartleby and Loki), who have been stuck in Wisconsin for ages, looking for a way to get back in God's good graces and re-enter Heaven. One day, the pair discovers a loophole of Catholic dogma that just might get them what they want. But there's a catch - if they succeed, they'll unmake all of existence in the process. Enter Bethany (Linda Fiorentino), a young woman who's lost her faith and who just happens to be the human race's last hope. She's tasked by Metatron (the voice of God, played by Alan Rickman) with the job of stopping Loki and Bartleby, but she's going to need all the help she can get. And when you're holding out for the heroes, who better than Jay and Silent Bob (Jason Mewes and director Kevin Smith)? Or how about the never-before-mentioned 13th Apostle, Rufus (Chris Rock)? Or maybe a sexless former muse turned stripper (Serendipity, in the form of Salma Hayek)? Weird enough for you? Trust me - you ain't seen nothing yet.

Writer director Kevin Smith has definitely done his research into Catholic "dogma" and lore. Dogma is an extremely well-written script, with a VERY well thought out plot. But just when you think the film's building up a good head of steam, it lurches to a halt under the weight of a lengthy exposition scene. And that's the film's fatal flaw - if you're going to satirize Catholic dogma, you've got to first make sure the audience understands it. And so we get scene after scene of long (and sometimes awkward) dialogue, where it's explained to us. Very little of the plot here is self-explanatory. This definitely isn't a film where the visuals tell the story. While I'm counting off the problems with Dogma, I need to mention Salma Hayek and Jason Lee. Salma Hayek is bad. I mean, she's pretty… but she's bad. Jason Lee is also bad. And he isn't pretty. And there are several scenes (like the strip bar for example), which don't seem to serve a purpose. Dogma originally had a near 3-hour running time before extensive editing was done, and I can't help but think it was probably a better film prior to the cuts.

But there's a LOT that does work in this film. The same dialogue that kills the momentum at times kicks it into high gear at others - some of these jokes are extremely funny, particularly anything involving Jay and Silent Bob. Chris Rock is very funny as a forgotten Apostle (who was left out of the Bible because he's black). George Carlin as a Catholic Cardinal on a mission to make the Church more hip? Come on - that's damn funny! And the nature of God as revealed in the end (specifically who plays God - I won't spoil it here) - how can you not crack a smile at that? And again, you've got admire the work Smith obviously put into the plot. Clever this flick's got in spades.

As DVD's go, the original disc looked and sounded fine, but it was pretty Plain Jane. But this new special edition is way better. Let's start with the video. You get anamorphic widescreen on both editions. The original movie-only disc was a flipper with widescreen on one side and full frame on the other. The new special edition is widescreen only. No big loss there though. Both versions present very accurate (if muted) colors, with nicely rendered flesh tones. The contrast is good, with deep blacks and excellent shadow delineation. And you'll find no digital artifacting or annoying edge enhancement anywhere. These are extremely nice transfers.

On the audio side, neither disc's sound will blow you away. Most of the time, the rear channels are almost non-existent in the mix, but they do become more active during action scenes. Don't look for much ambience though, but if you want gimmicky surround sound, it abounds here. And that's fine - it's not really a complaint, that's just the nature of the mix. But the dialogue is slightly too underemphasized in this mix, and since it's a dialogue-heavy film, you'll need to turn your volume up to get everything. And when you do, and you hit an action scene... well, beware your sensitive ears.

So if the picture and audio quality doesn't vary much between these two DVDs, why is the special edition the better of the two? Let's compare shall we? The original movie-only disc features a whopping set of two of trailers (one thankfully for Dogma) and some talent files. That's that. Impressive huh? The new special edition has two commentary tracks, including one with the cast and crew riffing hysterical about the movie (and plenty of other stuff as well). You also get a "Follow the Buddy Christ" feature, that occasionally lets you see two separate video feeds of the commentary track being recorded via picture-in-picture (a la the Mallrats disc). They're not feature length, but they're worth looking at when they appear. You'll also find a second, audio-only track, which is all about the technical side of making the film. This track features Mosier, Smith and Vincent Pereira and, while it's also pretty funny, it's more informative than anything else yet seen on a Kevin Smith DVD.

The new DVD also has a second disc of material, which features the video extras (the most important of these being 16 deleted scenes with View Askew intros). Having these here is great, but the video quality sucks - they're very digitally compressed looking. Many of you may know that Disc Two was also supposed to include an hour-long documentary. My guess is that the deleted scenes (more than 100 minutes in all) were compressed at a lower bit rate, to allow both these scenes and the documentary to fit on a single disc. But when the documentary was dropped at the last minute (reportedly over objections from Buena Vista, who licensed the film to Columbia for DVD release), there wasn't time to go back and recompress the deleted scenes at a higher bit rate to make them look better. That small issue aside, the scenes themselves are pretty frickin' funny. You'll have a lot of fun with them. Disc Two also includes some outtakes, storyboards for 3 scenes, cast and crew bios and filmographies, a theatrical trailer and Kevin and Jason Mewes shilling for their Jay and Silent Bob's Secret Stash comic shop in Red Bank, New Jersey. You also get a pair of well-hidden Easter Eggs (one on each disc of the set), video clips of a radical Christian lady begging you to throw your DVD away and random ideas for stuff to do instead of watching the film. It's a surprising amount of extras and it's a lot of fun.

Overall, the new Dogma: Special Edition is a great effort on DVD and it delivers enough laughs to make it definitely worth having a copy on your shelf. Your Franklins are well spent on the new disc, particularly if you love the flick. If you don't care about the extras, or want the film in full frame (gasp!), the movie-only disc is probably the better way to go.

Bill Hunt
billhunt@thedigitalbits.com


Dogma: Special Edition


Dogma (original version)


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