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Saved!

Starring Jena Malone, Mandy Moore, Macauly Culkin and Patrick Fugit; Heather Matarazzo, Eva Amurri, Chad Faust, Elizabeth Thai with Martin Donovan and Mary-Louise Parker
Written by Brian Dannelly & Michael Urban
Directed by Brian Dannelly
website: www.savedmovie.com

IN SHORT: A satire way too soft on satire [Rated PG-13 for Strong Thematic Issues involving Sexual Content, Pregnancy, Smoking and Language. 95 minutes]

Before we had even seen Saved!, we started getting hate-filled eMail along the lines of "well, since you hated The Passion of the Christ you probably can't wait to cheer for Saved..." This kind of communication redefines the word "stupidity" as far as we are concerned: First, it assumes that Saved!, the movie, is going to be an attack of some kind on Christian Fundamentalists. Second, it assumes -- and we've left out the nasty language -- that, since we're not Christian, that we hate the religion and its followers. Nope and nope. Then again, since Saved! is just an average flick, we also know that most of the people who should've read this paragraph only looked at the rating before rushing off to send their eMail. Thus it is. Thus it has always been.

But since we brought it up, writer/director Brian Dannelly is a veteran of christian and Catholic schools and a Jewish summer camp, according to the press notes. His bases are covered and his script respects all the faiths. We have our own set of "born again" friends and our "unspoken agreement (with a big smile)" is that none of us will know who is right until Death comes a calling. All we care about, on this plane, is story and character.

High Schools, regardless of where they are or what the underlying moral force may be, have always been places where various cliques rule and compete for top dog status. Saved! builds its story from the social interaction of the senior class of the American Eagle Christian High School, somewhere near Baltimore. At its roots, these kidlets aren't any different from any other high school class. The top dog is über-Christian Hilary Faye (Mandy Moore) who demonstrates her charitable works on a daily basis by lugging her paraplegic brother Roland (Macauly Culkin) around in the family van. Hilary's ego is such that she rubs her superiority in the face of all the average Christians at the school and has selected a very special few to be "Christian Jewels," complete with membership pins.

We'll only concern our self with Mary Cummings (Jena Malone). Mary, at the personal order of her Lord Jesus Christ, offers up her virginity to save her newly declared homosexual friend Dean (Chad Faust) from his sin. Still, Dean's parents ship him off to another school for reconditioning. Mary, on the other hand, discovers that there is a reason why "protection" is called "protection" when a Lifetime movie starring Valerie Bertinelli clues her in that she may be carrying a new life in her belly. With a new school year starting and a hefty assortment of baggy clothing waiting in the wings, Mary tells no one about the pregnancy and hopes she can make it to graduation before dropping the baby. That includes her solo mom Lillian (Mary-Louise Parker), who dresses a wee bit too scandalously for her daughter's taste.

Even worse is Dean's outing by Hilary, which puts the kibosh on her friendship with Mary. Social climbing butt kisser Tia (Heather Matarazzo) takes Mary's place in the Jewels. Mary, shockingly, forms a new friendship with Cassandra Edelstein (Eva Amurri) the school's only Jewish student. Cassandra has had discipline problems at a different school and, well, christian schools are notorious for their discipline -- though we thought it was the Catholic schools that were notorious. What do we know . . . ? Outcasts being what they are at the school, Roland forms a romantic connection with Cassandra. The real battle in this story is over newbie student, hot looker Patrick Wheeler (Patrick Fugit). Hilary wants Patrick almost as much as the gold Lexus she didn't get because of her brother's disability but Patrick's eye favors Mary. Uh oh.

All the characters in the script by Brian Dannelly & Michael Urban are well formed but, in the director's chair, Dannelly doesn't push his soap opera to the extremes it is supposed to reach. His satire is way too kind to the antagonistic characters but most of our dissatisfaction with it lies in the end of the story which we don't discuss. Twice during the run of Saved! the editor part of our brain started screaming that something was missing or badly connected in a subplot.Saved! isn't a hard movie to sit through and it isn't badly made but it is an absolutely average movie.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Saved!, he would have paid . . .

$3.00

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