Not since ELECTION has high school life been so deliciously skewered as it is
in SAVED! And this time it's not just any school but a hyper-religious
institution called the American Eagle Christian High School.
Mandy Moore, in her best performance yet, plays against type as Hilary Faye,
the school's reigning goodie-two-shoes queen and number one bitch. She'd
happily run over her own grandmother for Jesus. The film's script, by Brian
Dannelly and Michael Urban, is filled with lines that are little gems of biting
satire. Although some Christians will undoubtedly take offense, most will be
laughing perhaps the loudest of all in the audience. The lines are so good
that they frequently seem to be better even than the actors delivering them.
When we first meet Mary (Jena Malone, last seen wonderfully in THE UNITED
STATES OF LELAND), she tells us, "I've been born again my whole life." Her
earliest memories of being born again occur at age three. She lives with her
sexually charged mother, Lillian (Mary-Louise Parker), who has the hots for the
school's married Pastor Skip (Martin Donovan). He's an over-the-top figure who
likes to lead pep rally-like school services for Jesus. "Who's down with
G-O-D?" he screams to the students, as he is bathed in the spotlight. Mary's
most recent happy event was her acceptance into the band called the Christian
Jewels. Any guesses on who the lead singer could be?
Cast in the film's most throwaway role, Patrick Fugit is against wasted, this
time he plays Pastor Skip's relatively lethargic son. After his brilliant
piece of work as the lead in ALMOST FAMOUS, Fugit still hasn't found another
part worthy of his talents. Much better is HOME ALONE's Macaulay Culkin who
delivers a wicked reading of Roland, Hilary Faye's "differently abled,"
wheel-chair bound brother. He lusts after the school's only Jewish student,
Cassandra (Eva Amurri), who likes nothing better than shocking her fellow
students. At one assembly she starts talking in tongues and then begins to
flash her boobs, causing the atheist Roland to actually thank God for the first
time in his life and really mean it.
Even the student's cars tell stories. Hilary Faye's new van has the license of
"JCGIRL," while the bumper sticker on Cassandra's junker reads, "Jesus Loves
You. Everyone Else Thinks You're An Asshole."
One of the film's many subplots involves Dean (Chad Faust), the school's only
gay student. Before Dean is sent away to a tough love school that specializes
in kids suffering from drug abuse, alcoholism and "deep gayification," Mary --
whose name wasn't chosen lightly -- decides to cure him. Unsafe sex, she
learns, can cause more than disease.
Hilary Faye provides her own proof than homosexuality must be unnatural. After
all, she reasons with Mary, "You're not born a gay. You're born again."
Although the school's orgasmic rendition of the musical "Jesus Christ
Superstar" and Hilary Faye's big "Come to Jesus" moment are hilarious, the
film's funniest bit happens outside an abortion clinic, where Cassandra and
Roland happen to see Mary as she is leaving. "There's only one reason a good
Christian girl goes to Planned Parenthood," Cassandra tells Roland. "She's
planting a pipe bomb?" he asks, shocked and confused.
SAVED! runs 1:32. It is rated PG-13 for "strong thematic issues involving
teens - sexual content, pregnancy, smoking and language" and would be
acceptable for kids around 12 and up.
Copyright © 2004 Steve Rhodes