Dogma (film)

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This article is about the 1999 film. For the avant-garde filmmaking movement, see Dogma 95.
Dogma (movie).jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Kevin Smith
Produced by Scott Mosier
Written by Kevin Smith
Music by Howard Shore
Cinematography Robert Yeoman
Edited by
Distributed by Lions Gate Films
Release date
  • May 21, 1999 (1999-05-21) (Cannes)
  • November 12, 1999 (1999-11-12) (United States)
Running time
128 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $10 million[1]
Box office $31.4 million[1]

Dogma is a 1999 American fantasy comedy film, written and directed by Kevin Smith, who also stars along with Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Linda Fiorentino, Alan Rickman, Bud Cort, Salma Hayek, Chris Rock, Jason Lee, George Carlin, Janeane Garofalo, Alanis Morissette, and Jason Mewes. It is the fourth film in Smith's View Askewniverse series. Brian O'Halloran and Jeff Anderson, stars of the first Askewniverse film Clerks, have cameo roles, as do Smith regulars Scott Mosier, Dwight Ewell, Walt Flanagan, and Bryan Johnson.

The film's irreverent treatment of Catholicism and the Roman Catholic Church triggered considerable controversy, even before its opening. The Catholic League denounced it as "blasphemy".[2] Organized protests delayed its release in many countries and led to at least two death threats against Smith.[3][4] The plot revolves around two fallen angels who plan to employ an alleged loophole in Catholic dogma to return to Heaven after being cast out by God; but as existence is founded on the principle that God is infallible, their success would prove God wrong and thus undo all creation. The last scion and two prophets are sent by the seraph Metatron to stop them.


Bartleby (Affleck) and Loki (Damon) are fallen angels, eternally banished from Heaven to Wisconsin for insubordination, after an inebriated Loki (with Bartleby's encouragement) resigned as the Angel of Death. In a newspaper article that arrives anonymously, the angels discover a way home: The trendy Cardinal Ignatius Glick (Carlin) is rededicating his church in Red Bank, New Jersey in the image of the "Buddy Christ". Anyone entering during the rededication festivities will receive a plenary indulgence, remitting all sins, and permitting direct entry into Heaven.[5] They receive encouragement from an unexpected source: the demon Azrael (Lee), and the Stygian Triplets, three teenage hoodlums who serve Azrael in Hell.

Bethany Sloane (Fiorentino)—a depressed, infertile, divorced abortion clinic counselor—attends a service at her church in Illinois. Donations are solicited for a campaign to stop a New Jersey hospital from disconnecting life support on John Doe Jersey (Cort), a homeless man who was beaten senseless by the Triplets. Metatron (Rickman)—a seraph, and the voice of God—appears to Bethany in a pillar of fire and explains that if Bartleby and Loki succeed in re-entering Heaven, they will overrule the word of God, disprove the fundamental concept of God's omnipotence, and nullify all of existence. Bethany, aided by two prophets, must stop the angels and save the universe.

Now a target, Bethany is attacked by the Triplets, who are driven off by the two foretold prophets—drug-dealing stoners Jay and Silent Bob (Mewes and Smith). Bethany and the prophets are joined by Rufus (Rock), the thirteenth apostle (never mentioned in the Bible, he says, because he is black), and Serendipity (Hayek), the Muse of creative inspiration, now working in a strip club in search of inspiration of her own. Azrael summons the Golgothan—a vile creature made of human excrement—but Bob immobilizes it with aerosol air freshener.

On a train to New Jersey, a drunken Bethany reveals her mission to Bartleby, who tries to kill her; Bob throws the angels off the train. Bartleby and Loki now realize the consequences of their scheme; Loki wants no part of destroying all existence, but Bartleby remains angry at God for his expulsion—and for granting free will to humans while demanding servitude of angels—and resolves to proceed.

In New Jersey, Bethany demands answers: Who told the angels about the plenary indulgence loophole, and why must she stop them? Why hasn't God intervened himself? Metatron confesses that God's whereabouts are unknown; he disappeared while visiting New Jersey in human form to play skee ball. So the task falls to Bethany, because—she now learns—she is the last scion, the great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandniece of Jesus.

The group attempts in vain to persuade Glick to cancel the celebration; a frustrated Jay steals one of Glick's golf clubs. Their only remaining option is to keep the angels out of the church; but Azrael and the Triplets trap them in a bar to prevent them from doing so. Azrael reveals that he sent the news clipping to the angels; he would rather end all existence than spend eternity in Hell. Bob kills Azrael with the golf club, which Glick had blessed to improve his game. Bethany blesses the bar sink's contents, and the others drown the Triplets in the holy water. They race to the church, where Bartleby is venting eons of frustration by killing Glick and his parishioners. When Loki attempts to stop him, Bartleby tears off his wings, making him mortal, then kills him.

In a desperate attempt to seduce Bethany before existence ends, Jay mentions John Doe Jersey, and Bethany puts it all together. Bethany and Bob race across the street to the hospital, as the others try to block Bartleby's path to the church. Bethany disconnects John's life support, liberating God, but killing herself. Bartleby reaches the church entrance, where he confronts God (Morissette), who annihilates him with her voice. Bob arrives with Bethany's lifeless body; God resurrects her and conceives a child—the new last scion—within her womb. God, Metatron, Rufus, and Serendipity return to Heaven, leaving Bethany and the prophets to reflect on the past, and future.



Smith and his production partner Scott Mosier assembled a group of visual artists to realize their concept of a surreal, abstract environment "somewhere between reality and unreality": production designer Robert Holtzman, special effects supervisor Charles Belardinelli, creature effects supervisor Vincent Guastini, costume designer Abigail Murray, and director of photography Robert Yeoman.[6]


The Triplets' attack on John Doe Jersey was filmed on the boardwalk in Asbury Park, New Jersey; all other scenes were shot in and around Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Mexican restaurant in which Metatron explains Bethany's mission was the Franklin Inn in Franklin Park, north of Pittsburgh. Serendipity's pole dance and the Golgothan confrontation took place at the Park View Cafe (since renamed Crazy Mocha) on East North Avenue in Pittsburgh. The heroes plan their final strategy in the Grand Concourse Restaurant in the restored Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Railroad Station. St Michael’s Church, site of the apocalyptic climax, is the Saints Peter and Paul Church—now vacant—in East Liberty.[7]


Critics expressed surprise at the film's eclectic casting, which Smith said was done deliberately to emphasize contrasts between characters—Rickman as the powerful Metatron, for example, opposite Mewes as the hopelessly verbose stoner Jay, "...a Shakespearean trained actor of the highest order next to a dude from New Jersey." Smith warned Mewes that he would have to take his acting to a higher level. "I really impressed upon him that he had to be prepared for this movie. 'There are real actors in this one,' we kept telling him."[6] In response, Mewes memorized not only his own dialogue but the entire screenplay, because he "didn't want to piss off that Rickman dude".[8]

Other unorthodox casting decisions included Mexican actress Salma Hayek as Serendipity—"the [Muse] who throughout history inspired all the geniuses of art and music, like Mozart and Michelangelo, and never got any of the credit"—and singer-songwriter Alanis Morissette as God. "There's a Zen Buddhist serenity to Alanis that calls to mind something otherworldly," Smith explained. "She's definitely ethereal in nature, even when not speaking, and she carries an air about her that played into the role."[6]

Deleted scene[edit]

On the film's official website, Smith described a scene that did not make the final cut: a climactic face-off in the hospital between Silent Bob, a badly burned and half-decomposed Triplet, and the Golgothan. The battle was to end with the Triplet killing Bethany (temporarily), and God, newly liberated, transforming the Golgothan into flowers. Test audiences felt there was "too much Golgothan", and the film's run time already exceeded two hours, so the scene was eliminated.[9]


The soundtrack album accompanying the film was released in the United States on November 2, 1999, by Warner Bros. Records. It features an orchestral score by Howard Shore, performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra; and the song "Still", written, performed, and produced by Morissette. Stephen Thomas Erlewine of Allmusic described the "rich, effective" score as "alternately melodramatic and humorous".[10]


Dogma was 1999's third-highest grossing film in its opening weekend, behind The Bone Collector and Pokémon: The First Movie.[11] The film grossed a domestic total of $30,652,890 from a modest $10 million budget.[1]

Critic analysis of the film was generally positive; it has a 67% "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes with the consensus: "Provocative and audacious, Dogma is an uneven but thoughtful religious satire that's both respectful and irreverent." It fared better with fans, ranking 84% by the community.[12] On Metacritic, the film received a rating of 62 percent based on 36 reviews, and 7.7/10 by fans, based on 35 votes.[13]

Some religious groups—in particular the activist Catholic League—angrily denounced the film as "blasphemous".[14] Other groups staged protests outside theaters screening the film;[15] but film critic Roger Ebert—himself a Catholic—noted that there was no official objection from the Catholic Church itself. "We are actually free in this country to disagree about religion," Ebert wrote, "and blasphemy is not a crime." Ebert awarded the film 3.5 out of 4 stars.[16]

The film was screened, but was not entered in competition, at the 1999 Cannes Film Festival. Smith's screenplay received Independent Spirit Award and Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America nominations.[17]


In late November 2005, Smith responded to talk of a possible sequel on the message boards:

Over a decade later, there has apparently been no further discussion.[19]


  1. ^ a b c Dogma at Box Office Mojo
  2. ^ A Practicing Catholic On The Religious Storm Of `Dogma'. Chicago Tribune archive. Retrieved December 11, 2014.
  3. ^ Kimberley Jones (August 10, 2001). "Mr. Smith Goes to Austin". Austin Chronicle. Retrieved 2009-06-18. 
  4. ^ Andy Seiler (October 24, 2001). "Kevin Smith is seldom Silent". USA Today. Retrieved 2009-06-18. 
  5. ^ In actual Catholic theology, a plenary indulgence is not a blanket absolution of sins. Moreover, only the Pope can grant them, and only to humans; the Church has no jurisdiction over angels. (See "Indulgences". Retrieved February 9, 2017. )
  6. ^ a b c Dogma: About the Production. archive, retrieved November 19, 2015.
  7. ^ Dogma at, retrieved January 12, 2017.
  8. ^ "My Boring-Ass Life". March 29, 2006. Retrieved 2009-06-18. 
  9. ^ "Dogma - Through the eyes of the director - The Scenes That Never Were". Retrieved 2009-06-18. 
  10. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Dogma (Original Soundtrack) - Review". Allmusic.
  11. ^ "Weekend Box Office Results for November 12-14, 1999". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2011-10-18. 
  12. ^ Dogma at Rotten Tomatoes
  13. ^ Dogma at Metacritic
  14. ^ A Practicing Catholic On The Religious Storm Of `Dogma'. Chicago Tribune archive. Retrieved December 11, 2014.
  15. ^ Andy Seiler (October 24, 2001). "Kevin Smith is seldom Silent". USA Today. Retrieved 2009-06-18. 
  16. ^ Ebert, Roger (November 12, 1999). "Dogma Movie Review & Film Summary (1999)". Retrieved October 9, 2016. 
  17. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Dogma". Retrieved 2009-10-11. 
  18. ^ Kevin Smith (November 27, 2005). "The View Askewniverse Message Board". Retrieved 2009-06-18. 
  19. ^ Franich, D. On 'Dogma,' Kevin Smith, and the road not taken. Entertainment Weekly archive, retrieved January 11, 2016.

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