I'm not sure what I find harder to believe- the idea that people actually found this film funny, or the fact that it is considered controversial. This is "satire" at the level of the Carry On films- when a film uses a giant "poo monster" for supposed comedic effect, you know your time is wasted on it. I watched this expecting to chuckle, instead I came out feeling nauseated and patronised. At least half an hour of the film -AT LEAST- is spent with characters explaining the plot background and details to other characters. Can you say yawn? This is the first Kevin Smith movie I've seen and the man is the biggest overwriter I've had the displeasure of coming across. The characters just cannot shut up! This would be fine if the dialogue was witty or insightful, but instead it's lots and lots of swearing (the word "f~ck loses it's already minimal impact after the fiftieth time you hear it in one scene), and supposedly deep religious discussions that are immature and sound as if they were written by a twelve year old who just became interested in theology.
It's near impossible to see who this film appeals to- Smith shoots for pleasing all and ends up satisfying none. Those who enjoy the childish, "Dude Where's My Brain" jokes will no doubt be crushingly bored when the characters decide to sit and talk inanely about something unfunny -AGAIN, while those who like the pathetic attempts at religious satire and discussion of the Catholic Church will cringe at the afore mentioned poo monster and a succession of equally puerile kindergarten comedy.
The film is nowhere near as clever or anarchic as it thinks it is (indeed it has incredibly tame messages), and the characters are obnoxious. The protagonist -a female, distant relation of Christ- whinges so damn much you want to slap her overacting face. Indeed, pretty much every person in the film overacts- only Alanis (the only person with no lines- significant?) and Salma Hayek (who's a decent comic performer- `That's why he's The King, and you're a schmuk') come out with dignity intact. I should also say Silent Bob's expressions are pretty amusing, as are the odd one liners in Jay's rants. However, while Ben Affleck isn't as bad as he can be, he's still pretty terrible, and Matt Damon does an impressive impression of wallpaper throughout. When the film shoots for drama it's embarrassing. When the two fallen angels have an argument and one compares the other to Lucifer, we're supposed to take it seriously, but the poor writing and acting make it an utter non-moment. At one point, the protagonist, after another annoying rant (which I'm assuming is Smith's amateurish way of getting across how his characters feel, as this is an insanely whiny bunch of people) actually runs, drops on her knees in the rain, and screams up the sky `WHY, GOD!?!?!?! WHHHHHHHHHHHY!?!?!?' This was one of the only genuine laughs I got from the film, it's an utter cliché and this supposedly ironic, clever-clever film tries to use it as drama: worrying.
Again, I ask, who actually found this controversial? Bible Belt Christians? Devout Catholics? Those same groups find 'HARRY POTTER' controversial, it's hardly an achievement. The only other thing I could see as being controversial was the pushing of the pro-choice abortion movement, and while I am pro-choice, such plugging made me uneasy, as pro-lifers are demonised in the film somewhat unfairly. If Smith is going to enter the abortion debate, which is inadvisable in the first place for a film most likely to appeal to wannabe `alternative' folk gagging to prove their anti-establishment leanings, it should at least be fair and give the points of both sides. It's also obvious that the man directing is a Catholic himself, and the film comes across as just more self-loathing, rambling apologies from a liberal, middle-class, white male for the perceived wrongs his ancestors have done to the world. If there was any satire in the film, I didn't catch it- was the scene where God made all the bodies disappear satirical? Worryingly, it appears not. Besides, satirising the farcial exploits of the Catholic Church is about as hard as exhaling carbon dioxide.
The film, though, isn't a total waste of time. There are some nice points- the boredom of church-going is articulated adroitly, for example, and there are one or two funny moments. The conceit of the relative of Christ not being able to have children and thus losing faith in God is actually a great idea, but it's poorly executed in the extreme. The dialogue/writing is terrible for the most part (the characters talk too much about the story and/or themselves, and do too little), the acting equally dire, and -most criminally- it's simply not funny. `Dogma' commits the ultimate sin: for a movie packed with such dumb jokes, it sure takes itself seriously. If you want to watch a comedy, a satire, or even a discussion of religion or theology, there is surely better stuff than this.