The downside of Kevin Smiths films is that all the in-joking, undergraduate scatology and acerbic slacker observations on pop culture tend to run into a sameness after a time. While Smiths films have proven enormously witty and inventive so far, one suspects that several more films in the same vein would eventually milk dry the niche that Kevin Smith has established for himself something that was starting to happen by the time of his next film Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (2001). The good thing about Dogma is that it both manages to be a Kevin Smith film while also pushing the envelope of that niche radically. Dogma attracted considerable controversy before it opened with the Catholic Board aggressively petitioning Disney about being associated with such a blasphemous film and Disney getting nervous and dumping it. You can see exactly what the studio was worried about Smith approaches Catholic faith with exactly the same playfully needling irreverence that he launches into John Hughes and Star Wars. Case in point being the eccentric casting of female psychodrama singer Alanis Morissette as a capricious Almighty who blows angels heads off and then playfully sniffs flowers and does handstands revealing she is wearing boxer shorts. Moreover, serious theological speculations on divine fallibility, diabolic insurrection and faith sit alongside schoolboyish jokes about masturbation and anal sex.
The subtlety that does not seem to be being appreciated amid this perceived controversy is that Dogma is a devout Catholic film Kevin Smith himself is a practicing Catholic. [Compared to say Stigmata (1999), released two months earlier, and was a film that accused the Catholic Church of no less than conspiring to hide the truth about Christianity, yet managed to pass by without the slightest hint of controversy, Dogma is a model of theological conservatism]. What dazzles one about the film, at the same time as one is being taken back by its irreverence, is the ideas and discussions that Kevin Smith manages to pack in. Smith can throw up such playful silliness as the fourteenth Apostle protesting that Jesus was really Black but the fact was edited out of the Bible and the Angel of Death standing in a gunstore discussing the difficulty of raining fire and brimstone down on Sodom and Gomorrah, alongside such dazzling ideas about how God wants believers to have more ideas rather than rigid beliefs. Dogma is a film that for all its mocking and irreverent tone leaves one with less of a sense of Kevin Smith expressing an iconoclastic defiance as it does of Smith fearlessly trying to re-present, even wholeheartedly proselytise faith in terms understandable to a modern generation.
Dogma is not without its faults. One of these is that with so many ideas packed in, it frequently comes out as static and talky. Previous Kevin Smith comedies have sparkled with a snappy pace and insouciant lightning-fast black twists, but Dogma feels so weighted with points to make that it lacks these films giddy lightness of touch. Nor do Smiths attempts to do cod-Tarantino work. The image of Matt Damon as a gun-wielding Tarantino hood who also happens to be an Angel of Death is amusing there is an hilarious scene where Damon invades a corporate boardroom to exact divine anger but in the failure of the action scenes to move, it is clear that this is not Kevin Smiths forte.
Kevin Smith later returned to genre material with the horror film Red State (2011) about a doomsday cult, Tusk (2014) about a man who is surgically altered into a walrus and its follow-up the horror comedy Yoga Hosers (2016) featuring some of the same characters against miniature cloned Nazi soldiers, and the Halloween episode of the horror anthology Holidays (2016). Also of interest is The Death of Superman Lives: What Happened? (2015), a documentary in which Smith recounts his work as scriptwriter on the aborted Tim Burton-Nicolas Cage Superman film Superman Lives during the late 1990s.
(Nominee for Best Original Screenplay at this sites Best of 1999 Awards).