Dogma (1999)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Cast: Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Linda Fiorentino, Alan Rickman
Extras: Commentary Tracks, Deleted Scenes, Outtakes, Commercial, Storyboards

With Kevin Smith's "Dogma" release in 1999 we have what can probably be called his most controversial motion picture. As the title suggests, the film centers around several religious themes, which are put into the twisted context of a View Askew universe, featuring, once again, Jay and Silent Bob and quite a few other cast regulars including Jason Lee. It was without a doubt his most experimental and thematically ambitious project to date, and its subject matter is designed to provoke and disturb almost everyone, and yet it doesn't take itself seriously even for a moment. It's also the most violent film by Kevin Smith, and although much of the violence is done tongue in cheek, it seems surprising, especially when we remember we are watching a Kevin Smith film.

The film opens brutally enough with a homeless man being assaulted on the Jersey Shore by three young punks dressed in hockey gear. Soon after we meet Cardinal Glick (George Carlin), who is revealing a new PR campaign for Catholicism designed to make it hipper and more appealing to the young crowd who are perhaps put off by the whole negative symbolism of the cross and all. He reveals their new mascot, the Buddy Christ, revealed as a pop art icon with a big thumbs up sign and a knowing wink. Anyone who enters a certain New Jersey Church on the day of the rededication ceremony will have all of their sins forgiven by God. This is the new 'Catholicism Wow!' campaign.

This draws the attention of a couple of fallen angels who are idling away their time on Planet Earth hanging out at airports and fooling with mortals' perceptions. It appears no one needs forgiveness more than these two poor schmucks, condemned to 2000 years in Wisconsin for punishment from the Eternal One for indiscretions on the other side. Matt Damon plays Loki and Ben Affleck plays Bartleby, and they are basically doing the good cop bad cop routine. Loki thinks that they can win their way back to Heaven by killing sinners, and Bartleby always tries a more philosophical route. Either way the two are really entertaining to watch, especially their insanely cynical and brutally sarcastic dialogue, these two are obviously having a lot of fun with the role.

We also have an abortion clinic worker named Bethany Sloane (Linda Fiorentino), who has become rather bleak after her marriage recently fell apart, until she is approached by Metatron (Alan Rickman), a sexless (I forgot, many of the characters are sexless) angel who is there to inform her (after transporting her to the Mexican Restaurant down the street) that she must put a stop to Baretleby and Loki's attempt to travel to the Church and get forgiveness, because that would prove God's infallibility, and therefore the consequences would be quite lethal to all of the human race, not to mention rip the fabric of reality itself and just be bad news all around.

After hesitantly accepting the mission she is attacked by the three hockey players (aka Stygian Triplets) who are being led by a whiny demon named Azrael (Jason Lee). Before the attack becomes lethal, she is saved by none other than our own favorite anti-heroes Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (Kevin Smith), who run them off. Jay is particularly annoying in this film and does nothing but spew profanity laced diatribes of horny drugged out teen angst the entire film. As much as I love the character of Jay, he really grinds away at the nerves in this film; you just want to slap him.

She eventually takes Jay and Silent Bob along with her to prevent the travel of Loki and Bartleby, and they eventually hook up with Rufus (Chris Rock) who falls naked from the sky and turns out to be the thirteenth apostle. His extreme brand of humor really adds to a film already loaded with comedic talent.

If you haven't seen the film yet, I'm sure my review so far has hopefully provoked some curiosity, because the rest of it is even more extreme and hilarious. Not all of it works, of course, in fact many of the segments fall flat, but just the fact that they tried is enough for me to give this film a very high recommendation, although it certainly isn't for everyone, especially in these days when even a religious cartoon or novel can provoke extreme responses, religion is a very touchy area. I don't know why though, it seems that if some of these religions and philosophies could lighten up a little they would perhaps gain a new audience, which is one of the themes of the film, which was obviously banned by the Clergy. This is perhaps Kevin Smith's most ambitious, yet flawed, pictures. He throws everything into the blender here and adds a couple of uncommon elements (violence mainly) that sometimes work and sometimes don't.

Love it or hate it, the film simply looks great on Blu-ray. From the opening scene I realized this is the best looking Kevin Smith high definition release yet, and that will certainly come as a relief to those fans who have been eagerly awaiting its release. From the opening moments we are treated to all of the bright yellow 'Mooby' comic book brilliant color scheme that define all of his films. But of all releases, this is perhaps his most visually appealing. There is just so much to look at, and the set decoration is often part of the humor on this film, not to mention the rather ridiculous special effects, including a creature made of human excrement and some truly hilarious angel effects. We even have the Stygian Triplets rip open a fabric in reality with their hockey sticks, believe it or not. And all of this captured in ultra crisp and very detailed 1080p brilliance. Framed at 2.40:1, this film shows a new level of detail that rises far above the original two releases of the film on standard definition, and the black levels are dead on. I noticed no distracting enhancement issues, and this is certainly a stellar catalog release, if you are a fan of this film, it is a must buy.

And the audio is equally satisfying because it features a wonderful Dolby TrueHD track that not only clearly renders the dialogue heavy film perfectly, but also balances it nicely with some ridiculous and absurd sound effects you will have to hear for yourself. We also have quite a bit of surround action really, especially since there is usually quite a bit going on in the background, this is easily the most action packed of all Kevin Smith titles, even if one of the actual action scenes is a group of strip bar patrons battling off a demonic chunk of feces. Seriously, this is the best sounding Kevin Smith high def release also, and I'm sure most won't be surprised to hear that, like I said, they use a lot of sound effects for this particular View Askew production.

I'm sure many fans will be wondering if this edition contains all of the special features of the wonderful 2-Disc special edition from a few years ago, and guess what, it seems to contain all of them. And I must say I was surprised to see that, because this is one DVD that really packed on quite a few features, and was widely regarded for its groundbreaking scope back then. While we don't have anything new or exclusive what we do get really adds to the whole film. None of them are presented in high definition, though

In the special features department, we have two commentaries. The first features Kevin Smith and Ben Affleck, Jason Mewes, Jason Lee and the producer Scott Mosier and Kevin Smith expert Vincent Pereira exchanging the usual highly entertaining and sometimes shocking banter. One wonders if a few drinks weren't consumed, but either way, this track certainly doesn't disappoint in the entertainment department. In fact Kevin Smith commentaries have become notorious and this one is right up there with the best of them.

The second commentary is more mature and deals with the actual process of the making of the film. It includes Smith, Pereira and Mosier and is excellent if you are interested in what it really takes to film a Smith project. Especially a potentially insulting project like this one.

The real treat on this disc (in the special features department) is they have ported over the entire portion of 'Deleted Scenes', and that of course means we get 96 minutes worth of them, with a visual introduction to many of them, and some of them are priceless and just as funny if not more so than the film itself. It is a very well done feature, and it shows you how difficult it must have been to edit such a ridiculous and seemingly complicated film. This is a virtual treasure trove of segments that will have you laughing quite hard at times, and it is a thrill that they included them, I didn't think they would.

'Outtakes' is about thirteen minutes and is certainly worth checking out, it is obvious the cast and crew had quite a good time filming this movie.

'Stash Commercial' is about two minutes and features some of the really cool merchandise from Kevin Smith's 'Secret Stash' shop in New Jersey presented by Smith himself and Jason Mewes as they shamelessly plug the action figures comics and shirts available at the store and online.

'Storyboards' is self explanatory and shows us how a few scenes were shot according to the actual drawings.

Loaded with excellent special features and featuring the best transfer yet of a Kevin Smith film, this Blu-ray is an easy recommendation for fans and non fans alike, although it may not be for the easily insulted, it is an interesting comical take on faith and society in general that will have you laughing until the credits roll.