Why Kevin Smith shouldn’t direct again
I want to like Kevin Smith. I really do. Like me, the guy’s a bearded, married father of one who proudly lives in New Jersey. But after witnessing the mess that is ”Dogma,” I have a commandment of my own: Kevin Smith shalt never be allowed to direct another movie.
It’s not that I was offended by this irreverent, controversial theological comedy. Or that I think Smith is untalented. In fact, he’s one of the few writers with a distinctive voice working in movies today. But he needs to let another director help realize his vision.
”Dogma” has a divine premise — two banished angels (Matt Damon and Ben Affleck) try to scam their way back into heaven — and a surprisingly satisfying ending. But in between the setup and the pay-off, the movie meanders wildly. Perhaps if someone else had directed the film, he or she could’ve convinced Smith to cut, for example, the pointless sequence in which stripper/muse Salma Hayek helps flush out a demonic monster made of excrement.
Smith’s movies look like doo-doo too. The amateurish visuals were excusable in his no-budget debut, ”Clerks,” but with two other films (the unwatchable ”Mallrats” and the uneven ”Chasing Amy”) under his belt, Smith should have developed a sharper eye by now. It’s almost as if he wears his technical incompetence as a badge of artistic integrity, à la arthouse fraud Henry Jaglom (”Eating,” etc.).
He also seems incapable of eliciting consistent performances. The acting in ”Dogma” falls all over the cinematic map, from the Shakespearean histrionics of Alan Rickman (who looks like death as an angelic eunuch) to the skate-punk slurrings of Jason Mewes and Jason Lee (two members of Smith’s repertory ensemble). Even Chris Rock seems strangely stiff as the lost 13th apostle, Rufus.
Worst of all, Linda Fiorentino’s drab turn as an abortion-clinic worker descended from the Virgin Mary sucks all the life out of the film. Her coworker, Janeane Garofalo, brings more comedic energy to her one scene than Fiorentino does to the whole movie. Garofalo would’ve made a much better lead, but maybe she was too busy torpedoing her career with ”Mystery Men.”
Of course, my commandment will never be obeyed. With all the protests giving the film reams of free press, ”Dogma’ has done better than expected at the box office ($21 million thus far). So Harvey and Bob Weinstein — who produced the film for their company Miramax, then sold it under pressure to Lions Gate — have signed Smith to a new deal. Maybe the Weinstein boys could hook Smith up with a more visually gifted director. Hey, what’s Quentin Tarantino doing these days, anyway?