Saved!

"Good"

Saved! Review


Saved! is just the cutest little Christian comedy, simply the sweetest wee satire you'll ever see - but this is a sugar cookie leaking arsenic. Seemingly just another teen movie, Saved! goes into cinematically uncharted territory right off the bat as the teenage narrator, Mary (Jena Malone), says "I've been born again my whole life." We then get her story of how she, as a born-again Christian, couldn't accept that her boyfriend, Dean (Chad Faust), was gay as he claimed. Deciding that it was God's will, Mary seduces Dean, whose parents send him to a gay deprogramming clinic, while Mary is left pregnant.

This is all just prelude to a by-the-numbers story wherein Mary, a member of the coolest clique at American Eagle Christian High - the Christian Jewels, who have a band and their own pendants - gets booted from paradise by the clique's leader, Hilary Faye (Mandy Moore), as tan as she is vicious, after Mary starts questioning their judgmental attitudes. Fortunately, there's a pair of rebels to cushion Mary's fall: Hilary Faye's wheelchair-bound brother and a secret non-Christian, Roland (Macauley Culkin), and his girlfriend, the school's "only Jewish," Cassandra (Eva Amurri). While Culkin's sly, sleepy asides provide some of Saved!'s better moments, Amurri is just as much a shambling, bug-eyed, and hyperactive mess as she was in The Banger Sisters (if it's not overacting, it ain't acting, apparently). Mary has to hide her pregnancy from the school's eagle-eyed Biblethumpers, enduring Hilary Faye's hypocritical assaults, and hoping that the cute missionary skater and pastor's kid Patrick (Patrick Fugit) will ask her to prom. Will Mary keep the baby? Will Hilary Faye be allowed to be such a bitch? What would Jesus do? And will there be a shopping montage?

Saved!'s targets are about as big and broad as the giant Jesus statue that lords over the school. Thus, we get the pregnant teenager named Mary, a bad double entendre about the missionary position, and much hand wringing about intolerance. This doesn't mean the film is never funny, instead, it's quite full of bright little moments, but it does mean the jokes often have little sting. Writer/director Brian Dannelly never delves into the born-again background, panning instead over shots of Jesus-happy teens and getting easy laughs out of Martin Donovan's surprisingly empathetic Pastor Skip, who relates to the kids via shopworn MTV slang ("I was thinking something a little less gangsta.").

The satire never quite scores because it doesn't dig deep enough. Hillary's spite and anger are never explained, as we don't see her getting any juicy kick out of shunning those less Christian than herself; she's simply a hypocritical jerk, and one who just happens to be a Christian - which is likely the film's point, namely that evangelical teens are, after all, just teens. This gives the film an unfortunately easy excuse to stick to standard teen formula - meet-cutes, easily-resolved moral dilemmas, a climactic emotional prom night - but it also allows it to be sneakier with its critique, possibly even sneaker than it knows.

By the time Saved! has come to an end, the hypocrites have been unmasked, the protagonists brought happily together, it seems like too easy a gloss: The filmmakers don't seem to understand how serious their allegations are and seem to want to appease both Christians and secular humanists alike. The fact remains that most of these characters have belief structures which are as rickety as rotted wood and have just come crashing down. Are we supposed to believe that they will go on as good evangelicals with unbelievers and outed gays in their midst? This is one teen movie that might actually deserve a sequel, just to see what happens next.

Now with wings!



Saved!

Facts and Figures

Run time: 92 mins

In Theaters: Thursday 16th September 2004

Box Office USA: $8.8M

Distributed by: MGM

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 61%
Fresh: 86 Rotten: 56

IMDB: 6.9 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Mary, as Hilary Faye, as Roland, as Patrick, as Tia, as Cassandra, as Pastor Skip, as Lillian, as Dean, Elizabeth Thai as Veronica, as Herself, as Mitch

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