Disappointed Star Wars devotees take note: Kevin Smith’s Dogma is the real Phantom Menace, as inspired, goofy, subversive, and thought-provoking a pop-culture vision of the battle between good and evil as has been presented on the movie screen. Dogma follows the further adventures of Jay and Silent Bob, the movie-buff stoners from Clerks and Chasing Amy, as they become enmeshed in a struggle between angels and demons and try to prevent the apocalypse from starting in New Jersey.
With Smith, producer Scott Mosier, and stars Ben Affleck, Alan Rickman, and Linda Fiorentino in attendance, Dogma screened out of competition at the tail end of the Cannes Film Festival and made it seem like there was something new to be found under the intermittent Mediterranean sun. It also made it seem as if the dream of American independent film— the fusion of personal vision and popular culture— might survive the millennium. At various moments reminiscent of Star Wars, ’60s Batman comics, and the Bible, Dogma has a script as hilarious as The Rocky Horror Picture Show (it demands to be memorized and chanted back at the screen).
After the first press screening, Miramax’s Harvey Weinstein held an informal press conference in the middle of the street outside the theater. He is in a bit of a bind here, having bought the film from his own company for $14 million when Disney got nervous, fearing the wrath of the Catholic right. What Disney doesn’t understand is that what Dogma could have done for Disney is what American Graffiti did for Universal. The only way for Weinstein not to alienate such a talent is to release his movie in 1500 theaters ASAP.
“I didn’t set out to make a controversial movie, and I don’t think I did,” says Smith, a practicing Catholic who attends Mass every Sunday. “How can any church take a stand against a movie with a rubber poop-monster? The movie doesn’t fuck with any of the key characters. Christ isn’t even in the movie.” Stay tuned for imminent developments.