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Blu-ray Review
Blu-ray Disc review by Tim Salmons of The Digital Bits

Dogma (Blu-ray Disc)

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1999 (2011) - Lionsgate (Sony Pictures)
Released on Blu-ray on January 2nd, 2008
Also available on DVD

Dolby TrueHD

Film Rating: A
Video (1-20): 19
Audio (1-20): 16
Extras: B

Following Kevin Smith's independent success with Chasing Amy, he returned with his most unusual project to date: Dogma. It isn't the typical sort of Kevin Smith fare because it isn't about the adventures of regular people. Instead it deals with the fantastic rather than the realistic.

As far as the story itself goes, Dogma's is unique in that it combines both comedic and dramatic elements into a story essentially about a crisis of faith. It also set a trend for religious-themed films during this time period, but none of them compared to the wit of this one. The dialogue is filled to the brim with biblical jargon, four letter words, comedic genius and profound sage-like wisdom. It's actually so dense that most people don't catch everything the first time through, but its "road film" mentality makes it enjoyable and the possibility of repeat viewings a foregone conclusion. It also contains the most distinguished and interesting cast of Smith's films, including fantastic performances by Ben Affleck, Alan Rickman and Smith regular Jason Mewes. Howard Shore was also, shockingly, the composer for the film's whimsical musical score. It's just a great pool of talent pulled in together for a terrific little film. It's definitely not the work of a sloppy screenwriter with a penchant for writing witty dialogue who just happened to get lucky, as many have written Kevin Smith off as being. Dogma is instead the work of a filmmaker willing to branch out and try new things with new people for the betterment of his work.

For Sony's Blu-ray release of the film, a fresh transfer has been struck with nearly positive results. For the most part, the presentation is very solid and sharp-looking. Blacks are very richly detailed while blues, greens and reds are nice and robust. Skin tones are pretty much even, although there a few times when the actors appear a bit on the pink side. There's barely a film artifact to be found, and grain is so low that it's nearly non-existent. That could spell trouble, but comparing it side-by-side with the original DVD, the film has always been on the soft side and is actually an aid in recognizing that the image for the Blu-ray wasn't digitally scrubbed to death. I was hoping for a more pronounced sharpness, which may be impossible, but this is a terrific upgrade visually. On the audio side of things, you get two options: both English and French 5.1 Dolby TrueHD tracks. I would have preferred DTS-HD tracks, but these aren't totally worthless. Everything is clear and audible, but there's nothing that sweetens it up and makes it a more encompassing experience. It doesn't sound bad, per se, but it doesn't jump out as a great surround experience either. Maybe I'm just asking for too much, but I feel like this film was reaching for something more and didn't get close enough to do it, especially with the audio. This is a Region Free release, with subtitle options that include English, Spanish, French and English SDH.

Sony has also done a great job of transferring over most of the extras from the previous Special Edition DVD release. You have two audio commentary options: one with director Kevin Smith with various members of the cast and another with Kevin, Producer Scott Mosier and View Askew Historian Vincent Pereira. There's also a large set of deleted scenes with introductions (and a newly-added Play All option), outtakes, three storyboards sequences and what was sort of an Easter egg on the previous DVD release: a mock commercial for Jay and Bob's Secret Stash. Unfortunately, there's no new material included here, and missing are the very funny menu intros from the DVD and the Video Hijinks during the cast audio commentary. Also missing are some things that were left off of the original Special Edition DVD release for legal reasons. Namely the Judge Not: In Defense of 'Dogma' documentary and some animatics for commercials for the Hosties cereal seen in the film. At the time of that release, there was a lawsuit against the film's distributors and the DVD producers felt that it was best to speak as little about it as possible. As a result of that, the audio commentaries were BLEEPED whenever it was mentioned and the documentary was left off the disc... only to be released later, post-lawsuit, on the release of Vulgar. Over ten years later, there's no reason why these commentaries couldn't have been included uncut, while the documentary and the animatic couldn't have been included as extras for the first time. It stinks of laziness, and it's a real shame because the feature presentation is quite a good one. Don't get me wrong though. I'm happy that even though this is basically a catalogue release, they did put some effort into it to at least carry over most of what's been seen previously, but the lack of new material makes the overall product feel a bit rushed.

All in all, this is a very good upgrade from the DVD release, even with its problems. If I had to make a plea, it would be for Sony to get their next release of this film on Blu-ray right and make it a much more satisfactory release. Regardless, I really enjoyed revisiting this in high definition, and with a great video presentation, I was pleasantly surprised. Dogma isn't a perfect film by any means, but it's far too interesting and enjoyable to be overlooked. It's a standout film in Kevin Smith's body of work that is, in his own words, "a love letter to God."

Tim Salmons
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