The Catholic Church has been under attack so often recently that it has become clichéd to criticize religion, but Saved! has a fresh approach that wreaks havoc on Christian radicals while leaving Christianity as a faith in tact.
In the fictional American Eagle Christian High School, Mary (Jena Malone) transforms from a nearly ideal Christian into a total rebel. After her adorable, figure-skating boyfriend Dean professes his homosexuality to her, Jesus appears to her in a vision, telling her to have sex with Dean in order to reverse his horrible affliction. Against the odds and her sincerest prayers, Mary gets pregnant. She spends her senior year hiding the pregnancy–miraculously the only person in the entire school who can see through her thick fleece sweaters is Cassandra (a punk and a Jew, played by Eva Amurri). In the mean time, her altered perception of Jesus and God's will drives her away from her former best friend, model Christian Hillary Faye (Mandy Moore) and into the company of outcasts Cassandra and Roland (Hillary Faye's crippled brother, played by Macaulay Culkin). The whole mess becomes even more complicated when hottie skater Patrick (Patrick Fugit) joins the school after doing missionary work in South America, and the principal (also Patrick's father, played by Martin Donovan) becomes romantically involved with Mary's mother (Mary-Louise Parker).
Mary's life isn't lost to chaos, however. Having her baby strengthens her bond with her own mother and reaffirms their belief in Jesus' love. When Mary's bundle of joy arrives, everyone drops their harsh exteriors, exposing the goodness in their character. Other characters share in the warmth and happiness, showing their Christian faith.
The movie is a little contrived, somewhat complicated and definitely hilarious. Writers Brian Dannelly and Michael Urban put together a fantastically witty script that overshadows discrepancies in the plot. Dannelly also directed the film, lavishing it with visual comedy. The lightly cruel jokes bash fundamentalist Christians and verge on sacrilege (What's any good Christian girl doing sneaking out of a Planned Parenthood clinic? Planting a pipe bomb!). The final product is uproariously funny.
Add to that the artistic genius of Macaulay Culkin, Jena Malone, Mandy Moore and Patrick Fugit, and you have a pretty fabulous film. Mandy Moore especially takes her portrayal of the ambitious high school girl over the top. She is sweetly ruthless, a Bible-thumping maniac and homecoming queen all rolled into one.
Saved! is beyond a doubt a chick flick; the audience's awww's are resounding. The themes of individuality, family, faith and love essentially guarantee a certain amount of sappiness. However, its heart-warming ending promoting equality and Christian brother- and sisterhood are balanced by its blasphemous and irreverent undertones.
Saved! is rated PG-13. It runs 93 minutes and is playing at the Bethesda Row Cinema.
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