“Saved!” is a delightful satire of teenage born again Christians from first time writer/director Brian Dannelly. “Saved!” is about the students at Amercian Eagle Christian School and their fanatical devotion to Jesus. Hillary Faye (Mandy Moore) and Mary (Jena Malone) are two of Christian Jewels, the shining embodiment of Christ’s love to the rest of the student body. All is going well until the summer before their senior year. Mary discovers that her boyfriend Dean (Chad Faust) is gay and then promptly has a vision from Jesus that it is up to her to save him. She thinks the only way to do this is to have sex and Jesus will for give her because she is doing his will. This is where things take a turn for the worse. Dean’s parents find out about his homosexuality and send him to Mercy House for “degayification” right before school starts. Mary has to go on and deal with her inability to save him.
During the first day of school the audience is introduced to the man behind American Eagle, Pastor Skip. Pastor Skip is the principal of the school and Jesus’ right hand man. He is hip and cool and says things like “Let’s get out Christ on” and “Are you down with G-O-D!?!” The same day the last three members of the ensemble are introduced. Roland (Macaulay Culkin), is Hillary Faye’s wheelchair bound brother who is sarcastically not Christian. Hillary wheels him around like her own personal merit badge for Christ’s love and Roland can’t stand it. Roland meets the “bad girl” Cassandra (Eva Amurri) and after a little verbal sparing they become friends. Cassandra is the only “Jewish” in the school which leads to Hillary constant need to save her, even though they are the high school equivalent of mortal enemies. The final addition to the cast is Pastor Skip’s son Patrick (Patrick Fugit). Patrick is the skateboarding, hard-rocking, Christian type. He wears shirts that show God’s sign as metal horns. This almost makes him immediately unlikable but he plays it well.
At the beginning of Act two Mary discovers she is pregnant with Dean’s child and has a fight with Jesus. This lands her on the outs with Hillary and the Jewels and she befriends the outcasts Roland and Cassandra. This leads to the real meat of the story. The story becomes one of discovery and redemption. Not just for Mary but for most of the characters. Patrick, who seems to embody the truest sense of “Christian love”, leads even the most devout of the bunch to learn true compassion and caring. Although the end becomes a little preachy but the message for the most part is good. The film does a good job of showing the difference between real love and compassion and the fake “love of Christ” that most of the characters show.
Between the satire, wit, and drama “Saved!” does a remarkable job of keeping everything balanced and entertaining. The ensemble cast is great and so is the dialog. It is well thought out and highlighted by often satirical, but not entirely, Christian rock. This is a film for everyone, from not believers to the most devout. It is just a shame it will be over shadowed by a religious movie of much lesser quality from earlier in the year. This proves once again that first timers can beat out veterans when the story is right.
Byron Schaller can be found daily at In The Congo.Powered by Sidelines