A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that although this is a Kevin Smith comedy, it's controversial for its religious theme and elements. Although the Catholic League condemned the film, Smith maintains its message regarding the Christian faith is actually positive. Like most of Smith's comedies, this movie contains explicit conversations about sex, marijuana use, and a lot of strong language (they love the "f" word especially and you'll notice that quite a bit of dialogue is dubbed over when this plays on Comedy Central). There are also several violent scenes involving two renegade angels and a few demons, but the blood is over-the-top and almost cartoonish in nature.
What's the story?
Bethany (Linda Fiorentino) is a Planned Parenthood employee who also goes to church every Sunday. She's visited by an angel (Alan Rickman) and commanded to stop the renegade angels Loki and Bartleby from entering a particular Catholic church in New Jersey. If the angels succeed, they will undo existence. The 13th apostle Rufus (Rock), two earthly "prophets" -- Jay and Silent Bob, and the heavenly muse Serendipity (Hayek) all help Bethany on her divine mission. While Bethany struggles to make it to Jersey with her merry band of holy and very unholy characters, she slowly learns more and more hidden truths about God (he's a she) and Jesus (he hates it when hypocrites and televangelists pretend to do his bidding). As she reaches enlightenment, Loki and Bartleby go on an Old Testament-style killing spree, murdering the unfaithful, ungrateful unbelievers.
Is it any good?
Kevin Smith is not a subtle writer-director, and this crude comedy is signature Smith. His films, with the exception of the watered-down romantic comedy Jersey Girl, rival Tarantino and Mamet for their talky, explicit dialogue and Allen and Guest for their troupe-like use of the same actors (Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Jason Lee, Jason Mewes). DOGMA, which is Smith's most controversial film (and he's had plenty), is exactly what a moviegoer should expect from a Smith fantasy, except with a higher-minded theme (Christianity) and a few more A-listers (Chris Rock, Salma Hayek, and Alanis Morissette -- as God -- all joined his regular crew). It's got a lot of sex talk (characters Jay and Silent Bob, played by Mewes and Smith, rarely discuss anything but sex unless it's drugs) and Catholic jokes.
But it also pokes fun at New Jersey (its residents and the state itself), skeeball, pro-choice AND pro-life activists, African Americans, strippers, churchgoers, atheists, homosexuals… and the list goes on. Call it equal-opportunity mockery (think South Park), but not blasphemous, as the Catholic League contended. Without spoiling the ending, it's safe to say that Smith lets good triumph over evil. Women -- in the form of an incarnate God and "her" chosen one Bethany -- save humanity, and Smith allows for a message that's downright inspirational. Despite the controversy, Dogma seems directed by a former altar boy, which Smith is, believe it or not.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about whether Kevin Smith went too far by lampooning Christianity and the Catholic Church in particular. Is there a redeeming message about faith at the end or is it just offensive from start to finish? Do you think this fantasy comedy merited all of the controversy it stirred up or not?
- In theaters: July 6, 1999
- On DVD or streaming: June 26, 2001
- Cast: Ben Affleck, Linda Fiorentino, Matt Damon
- Director: Kevin Smith
- Studio: Lionsgate
- Genre: Comedy
- Run time: 128 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: strong language including sex-related dialogue, violence, crude humor and some drug content
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.