Movie Review

With George W. Bush’s picture in the classroom larger than the U.S. wall map, would be and a 40-something principal of the Eagle Christian Academy who uses the word “gangsta,” you know you’re either in for a real treat or a bad groan in the film, “Saved.”

It’s the former, thank Jesus. “Saved” fits perfectly into the high school film formula, but has a bite and romance going at the same time. Of course, the Christian Coalition might call a jihad over this film but the soft or sweet bite enhances the movie and adds another layer to its depth.

“Saved” is the story of six young people. Hilary Faye (Mandy Moore) is the alpha queen and leader of the Christian Jewels, who sing deadly Christian rock. Her brother, Roland (McCauley Culkin), paralyzed from an accident, is in a wheelchair. Cassandra (Eva Amurri) is the only Jewish student in the school because her other choice was home schooling. She’s gorgeous, brazen, has a big heart. But it’s Mary (Jena Malone) who occupies the emotional center of the film.

We meet her underwater with her boyfriend, Dean (Chad Faust) when he tells her he is gay. Clutching at a religious base to “cure” him, she sacrifices herself and her virginity and winds up pregnant. Mary and Cassandra bond over her “unfortunate” circumstances and work to hide a growing belly, Dean is sent away to a wayward boy’s behavioral modification center so he can really fall in love with another wayward boy (karma working in the most mysterious way). Meanwhile, the preacher’s son, Patrick (Patrick Fugit) falls for Mary. Adding to the mix is Patrick’s father, Pastor Skip (Martin Donovan), who’s having an affair with Lillian (Mary-Louise Parker), the Mary’s mother.

“Saved” isn’t perfect, but its poking of fun at the academy’s principles is such a good way to talk about authentic values and does a real service. Brian Dannelly’s direction keeps all but a few moments and scenes wonderfully balanced between the story and the grenades he’s throwing.

– Curly Cohen