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  1. #1
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    Saved! Review

    Saved! (Brian Dannelly, director - starring: Jenna Malone, Mandy Moore, Macaulay Culkin, Mary Louise Parker, Patrick Fugit and Heather Matarazzo)

    Director Brian Dannelly's highschool satire addresses the difficulties of life in an overreaching and unforgiving religious community. Starring Jenna Malone and Mandy Moore, the film centers around a fervently Christian highschool divided by teen pregnancy, homosexuality and infidelity among other issues. As scripted, controversy surrounded the film's release (certain Christian spokesmen called it evil) and with Macaulay Culkin, Mary Louise Parker and co-producer Michael Stipe to round out a hip cast and crew, Saved! was set to be an indie hit of sorts.

    On screen, however, the film falls short of any hype from any camp. Clumsy relationships and only moderately amusing sexual and religious setups overwhelm its stated tack, and what ultimately emerges as social criticism is apologetic and unassured, leaving the film to waddle somewhere between mainstream teen fare and something more sophisticated. Saved! poses vital questions, but viewers will have to explore them on their own. Much to its credit the second film in Culkin's return to screen shows the former child star truly at home as a righteously dark adolescent, a character which would suit him well in a better context. And Jenna Malone does her pouty best since Donnie Darko. But both characters are one dimensional and highlight underlying flaws which even the most cred-wielding personnel can't rescue.

    P

  2. #2
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    Much to its credit the second film in Culkin's return to screen shows the former child star truly at home as a righteously dark adolescent, a character which would suit him well in a better context.
    Rightious darkness runs in the family, and they are also capable of weirdness. Kieren, Macauley's brother, has done well as an ironic young man in Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys and above all, Igby Goes Down. I liked Macauley much better in the trashy but original Party Monster than in this toned down performance from a wheelchair in Saved.

  3. #3
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    MY REVIEW OF "SAVED"

    Brian Dannelly: Saved! (2004)

    by Chris Knipp


    Curdled

    Saved! is another disappointing entry in the high school satire genre like its immediate predecessor, Mean Girls. Set in a Born Again Christian high school, Saved! starts out with a cast of characters that might work – the unctuously “with it” school principal who spins cartwheels on stage at the opening assembly and raps about being “down with” the Lord; his cute son Patrick (Patrick Fugit, later to pose as Jesus on the cross in a gold lamé loincloth), who’s just back from South American “missionary work” with his skateboard and better hair than the other boys; a (mildly) cynical handicapped boy, Roland (Macauley Culkin, way less outrageous than in Party Monster and not as good); and Cassandra (Eva Amurri), the sole Jewish girl at the school and the only real Mean Girl in the bunch. She actually smokes and swears, and the few misfits get in a few good quips.

    As always of course there’s got to be the queen bee of the alpha females, and she’s the ubiquitous and very grating Hilary Faye (Mandy Moore) a vicious blend of righteousness and excessive makeup who gets her nose into everything and comes out with nothing but a rage attack and a huge pimple on the chin. She’s so monotonous you know she’s going to get her comeuppance and be Reformed.

    But the plot’s pivot point, which arrives early on, involves adorable waif Mary (Jena Malone), who gets pregnant with her gay boyfriend to “cure” him. That opening event dominates the plot and ultimately brings it down – how can you make fun of pregnancy? -- with a prom dance finale that’s an orgy of acceptance in which Patrick dates the visibly pregnant Mary, Hilary Faye is forgiven, and Dean (Chad Faust), Mary’s gay boyfriend, arrives with his gay roommate from the Christian brainwashing center as his date, and after a scuffle with the school principal, they’re allowed in. Hilary Faye’s rebellion focuses upon ramming her car into a giant cardboard Jesus and knocking its head off. The kids promise to put it back together. Because of this curdling of the comedy Saved! has been called this year’s Pumpkin, but Pumpkin was so weird that even when it turned sweet it still creeped you out. Saved! just sneaks away with its Christian slogans intact.

    Saved! delivers too much nauseating Christian cant without satirical comment. The writing isn’t smart or bold enough. The director and writer, who themselves went to Christian school and camp, say their characters are like real life but toned down: "If anything, we underplayed it”. Why "underplay" things in a satire? Like Mean Girls, Saved! invites comparison with the standard for wicked American teenage comedy set by Heathers and Election, and it doesn’t measure up. The teenage rebellion that leads to Heathers’ murders and explosions or Over the Edge’s school on fire, fizzles out in a few outbursts at the prom. There are some born again Christians who're already glad this movie was made -- and that's a sin.

  4. #4
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    Not being particularly interested in the genre, and having read enough from the posts above to realize they were not favorable, I passed on Saved! without inquiring further. Big mistake. Chris opines that it "sneaks away with its Christian slogans intact", but the movie is not trying to be anti-Christian, its target is the corrupting of those values by extremists. This balancing act of supporting certain values that Christianity shares with other belief systems while satirizing the hipocrisy and narrow-mindedness of Fundamentalism is difficult to achieve. Saved! succeeds. I found it quite funny too. Expecting not to find too much support from critics, I researched a few reviews and found several quite favorable.
    "Boasts wicked satire with a big heart" (Premiere)
    "The audacious feel-good satire of 2004" (Michael Sragow)
    "A great Accomplishment" (Morgenstern, WS Journal)
    "Important and entertaining" 3 1/2 stars (Ebert)
    "It's been a long time since I've seen a teen movie as lively, as unpredictable, as generous, and as tough-minded as this one" (Rosenbaum)
    I don't think it's a masterpiece. You won't find it in my Top 10. Yet, in my opinion, you guys have seriously undervalued this one.

  5. #5
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    I'm glad you liked it and you're in good company. I got some fun out of it. After some of the more earnest things you have been watching it may have been (no pun intended) a godsend. But I'm surprised you were not troubled by the ambivalence of the piece. I'm not at all convinced that satire is a mode of writing earnest Christians are capable of.

    This balancing act of supporting certain values that Christianity shares with other belief systems while satirizing the hipocrisy and narrow-mindedness of Fundamentalism is difficult to achieve.
    You even had trouble getting your mouth around these ideas but I agree; I just differ with your next sentence, "Saved! succeeds."

    I wonder what John Waters would think of Saved! I found it similar to the gay Mormon movie Latter Days. That's a story which is significant for gay people, but like Saved! it's too close to, and ambivalent about, its subject to see it with any detachment, or any consistency of tone. I watched both with a lot of interest, and some enjoyment, but ultimately little admiration.

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