Combustible Celluloid
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With: Jena Malone, Mandy Moore, Macaulay Culkin, Patrick Fugit, Heather Matarazzo, Eva Amurri, Chad Faust, Elizabeth Thai, Martin Donovan, Mary-Louise Parker
Written by: Brian Dannelly, Michael Urban
Directed by: Brian Dannelly
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for strong thematic issues involving teens - sexual content, pregnancy, smoking and language
Running Time: 92
Date: 01/21/2004

Saved! (2004)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Brawling from Grace

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

In this day and age when millions can find salvation in a Mel Gibson blood-and-guts spectacle, organized religion is ripe for a cinematic skewering. But Saved! isn't the movie to do it. It makes the same mistake so many other weak-kneed satires make; it wants to savagely poke fun at its characters but also wants us to love them for who they are.

Mary (Jena Malone) and Hilary Faye (Mandy Moore) are enjoying their senior year at a top Christian school. That is, until Mary winds up pregnant after trying to "rescue" her gay boyfriend by sleeping with him. With the help of the school's only Jewish student (Eva Amurri) and Hilary Faye's wheelchair-bound brother (Macaulay Culkin), Mary tries to hide her dirty secret from the rest of the school.

After its wondrously vicious first act during which the characters take a recreational trip to a shooting range called "An Eye for an Eye," the film begins to adopt boring screenwriter's tools like character arcs and -- Heaven help us -- yet another third act taking place at the prom. Writer/director Brian Dannelly and co-writer Michael Urban preach to the converted with their self-righteous types and turn them into irredeemable villains with little dimension. So our heroes achieve their ultimate victory over nothing.

(This review appeared in the June 10, 2004 Las Vegas Weekly.)

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