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movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Saved!

Starring: Jena Malone, Mandy Moore
Director: Brian Dannelly
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 92 Minutes
Release Date: May 2004
Genres: Comedy, Drama

*Also starring: Macaulay Culkin, Patrick Fugit, Heather Matarazzo, Martin Donovan, Mary-Louise Parker, Eva Amurri, Chad Faust, Chris Evans, Valerie Bertinelli, Elizabeth Thai

Review by Steve Rhodes
3½ stars out of 4

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

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