Bringing Dogma to the DVD Masses

Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Linda Fiorentino, Salma Hayek, Jason Lee, Jason Mewes, Alan Rickman, Chris Rock, Kevin Smith. Directed by Kevin Smith. Aspect ratio: 2.35:1 (anamorphic). Dolby Digital 5.1. 130 minutes. 1999. Columbia TriStar 04891. R. $24.95.

Kevin Smith's Dogma is a hilarious sendup of organized religion, popular culture, and (maybe I'm stretching a bit here) the cult of Quentin Tarantino. If you're easily offended or find foul language offputting, you should give it a miss—otherwise, it's guaranteed to have you laughing to the point of losing bladder control.

How to synopsize this shaggy dogma of a plot? Bartleby (Ben Affleck) and Loki (Matt Damon) are fallen angels, banished by God to Wisconsin for eternity. They discover a loophole in Church law that will allow them to return to heaven, but there's a hitch—it will negate all existence.

The world's only hopes are Bethany (Linda Fiorentino), who is a lapsed Catholic; an unlikely pair of prophets (Jay and Silent Bob from Smith's other films); and the 13th Apostle (Chris Rock), who swears he's been left out of the Gospels because he's black. Also encountered are a very cranky Metratron, aka the Voice of God (Alan Rickman), and a fallen Muse with writer's block (Salma Hayek). This is not a quiet group of pilgrims. Along the way they argue about religion, faith, belief, duty, sex, and just about anything else that can be articulated.

The cast is superb. Everyone seems to be having a ball—especially Hayek, who almost steals the film once she makes an appearance. But it's Fiorentino who truly shines: her bemused gravity lends the tale the sense of reality it needs to anchor its flights of fancy.

In the end, who triumphs—the heavenly hosts or the fallen angels? How can you have any doubts? But it's a close thing, and a tale very much appreciated in the telling. If you see only one sarcastic end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it film this year, make it Dogma.