TWO MOVIES OPEN Friday which question, then unconditionally support, the Catholic Church. One is inspired by the Bible and set in present-day America, the other is a French historical epic. Both feature a woman compelled into action by visions from Heaven. Neither movie lives up to its potential, but one ends up being good while the other is very, very bad.

Of course, the controversy surrounding Kevin Smith's new film, Dogma, is overblown. God is a woman (Alanis Morissette), the Christ-figure (Linda Fiorentino) works in an abortion clinic, new characters like the 13th Apostle (Chris Rock) and a muse-turned-stripper (Salma Hayek) are added, but it's all a way for Smith to ruminate on the importance of faith. The plot begins when two angels who have been kicked out of heaven hatch a plan to get back in. Loki (Matt Damon) was once God's Angel of Death, but he got talked out of the killing game by Bartleby (Ben Affleck); for their insubordination God kicks them both out of heaven. The pair miss bathing in the light of God, but other angels believe their return would prove the fallibility of God, and negate existence. I never bought this premise, and besides, The Prophecy took the idea of jealous angels striving to regain God's attention to a bigger and better extreme. That said, Dogma remains an entertaining and diverting picture.

The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc, on the other hand, sucks. It's your basic French epic: Girl has visions from God, girl leads French armies to victory, girl gets burned at the stake. Luc Besson (The Fifth Element) takes this story and does absolutely nothing with it. Neither Joan, nor the French army generals, nor the movie ever questions the fact that Joan may very well be delusional. With her rise to fame predetermined, this is actually a remake of Braveheart, the only differences being that The Messenger's battle scenes are not as good (although there are some hilarious Monty Python-style decapitations), and Milla Jovovich is prettier than Mel Gibson.

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