DOGMA

Written and directed by Kevin Smith

The mortals are equally game for the ride. Carlin is polished and perfect as the inflated Cardinal Glick. (Who else could sell a modern-day crusade called Catholicism -- Wow!?) Fiorentino does fine work balancing the insanity of her quest with a lingering sense of doubt. Best of all, Smith and Mewes finally get to stretch out their ongoing shtick beyond the limited appearances of Smith's previous movies. Smith's silent comedy is a smart arrangement for the director, but the revelation here is Mewes, who blurts out his rude tirades like an NC-17 Spicoli. There is a strong element of classic fool to Jay, and Smith has written his friend some beautifully raunchy wisdom to spew.

All in all, Dogma earns a lot of points for sheer invention, loses a couple for occasional lapses in execution and comes out on top for wiggling spasmodically on ideological turf where most creators dare not go. In this case, crude, piecemeal courage is certainly better than none at all.

Opens Nov. 12.

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