Saved! (USA; 92 min.)

directed by: Brian Dannelly
starring: Jena Malone; Mandy Moore; Macauly Culkin; Patrick Fugit

Diane says: "I was horrified that this was at an indie festival--and a packed house! Starts as a sophomoric satire of born-again Christians, ends spouting a platitudinous Christian message. This was at Sundance?! The Slant reviewer wrote: 'An early contender for the worst film of the year, the painfully unfunny SAVED is every bit as reductive as your average high school underdog fantasy....' Not that I didn't laugh a few times and enjoy seeing Martin Donovan and Patrick Fugit."

Michael says: "It really helped me to spend time with the director of this film, and hear his reasons for making the choices he did before seeing this film. I, like many others, was expecting a darker, satrical look at a group of teens attending a Christian High School, but if you manage to leave those expectations at the door, you'll be treated to a skillfully made, albeit intentionally conventional teen film with a twist. While the film was quite humorous, I was also amazed at the number of times I got choked up during scenes of real emotion. Jena Malone, as Mary, is particularly adept at showing true emotion without seeming melodramatic. The cast is terrific, with pros Mary Louise Parker and Martin Donovan providing the adult assistance, and Patrick Fugit, Heather Matarazzo, Eva Amurri, and surprisingly, Mandy Moore and Macaulay Culkin rounding out the teen cast. SAVED! is presented in as broad a manner as possible, in order to appeal to a mainstream audience in middle-America, but it includes a subversive message around tolerance that is an important one in this day and age. See this one in a double-bill with NAPOLEON DYNAMITE. 4 1/2 cats"
Bruce says: "The message-packed SAVED is great fun, not a great film. Mary (Jena Malone), one of the most Christian young girls at a Baptist High School in Baltimore, likes to talk to her boyfriend Dean (Chad Faust) underwater. She cannot believe her eyes when he mouths, 'I'm gay.' He must be saved and the most obvious way to do that, Mary thinks, is to surrender her virginity. Shortly thereafter, Dean is institutionalized to be deprogrammed and made straight. Next, Mary discovers she is pregnant.

"Hilary Faye (Mandy Moore) is the most zealous of all the school's Christians. Her two sidekicks more closely resemble disciples than good friends. Her brother (Macaulay Culkin) is wheelchair bound and is attracted to Cassandra (Eva Murri), a Jewish girl who is enrolled in the Baptist school because she has been kicked out of all the alternatives.

"Mary’s mother (Mary-Louise Parker), unaware of Mary’s condition, is starry-eyed over Pastor Skip (Martin Donovan), the religious leader of the school. The Pastor’s son Patrick (Patrick Fugit) has just come to live with his father and is trying to make his dad understand that his marriage is over. Hilary Faye has designs on Patrick who has fallen for Mary. What follows involves much posturing, many misunderstandings, deception, vindictive behavior, and total mayhem. In short, the school is shaken to its very foundation. Soon the labels are flying: queer, unwed mother, divorcee, heathen…

"'Is God loving or unforgiving?' 'If we place labels on people, are those with good labels who do bad things better than those with bad labels who follow the Golden Rule and turn the other cheek?' While the questions this film raises are nothing new, the way in which they present themselves as the farce unfolds is enlightening in simplistic terms. Almost every character in the film learns a life lesson before the credits roll by. The bottom line is that we are always being preached to – but it makes a significant difference whether it comes from the fundamental religious or the secular humanist point of view. 3.5 cats