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Saved! (2004)

Heaven Help Us.

Rating: 8/10

Running Time: 108 minutes

US Certificate: PG-13 UK Certificate: 12a

I’m terrified of reviewing anything that even touches on the issue of religion, and have been ever since one particular nut-job e-mailed me to warn me I’d be going straight to Hell if I even considered giving Bruce Almighty a good review. Then again, perhaps that guy just REALLY disliked Jim Carrey. If that is the case, then it’s a perfectly understandable position and I’m probably being a little harsh on him here. But, if not, let’s hope he’s not reading this one, because he’s going to hate it.

‘Saved!’, you see, isn’t against Christianity in any way, but what it IS against is people like Mr E-Mail Man who try to shove their religion down everybody else’s throats at every opportunity. It’s set at American Eagle, a school which can only be described as catering for the rampantly-Christian. The headmaster, Pastor Skip (Martin Donovan), leads assemblies by shouting things like “Let’s get our Christ on!” and “Who’s down with the G-O-D?”, but even more frightening is the fact that the pupils actually lap this stuff up.

The tale centres on the amiable and aptly-named Mary (Jena Malone), who has a solution in mind when she discovers boyfriend Dean (Chad Faust) is gay. She thinks she can “cure” him by offering up her virginity, and that this forage into sex-before-marriage will be forgiven by Jesus because she’s saving a soul in the process. The trouble is she ends up preggers and, before you know it, she finds herself losing her religion (Michael Stipe is one of the producers, by the way).

Boasting a wonderful cast and some fantastically sharp satirical writing by Michael Urban and director Brian Dannelly, this is the best teen flick in years. One-time chart-chick Mandy Moore steals many of her scenes as Hilary, the self-important high school It Girl who puts the “mentalist” in “fundamentalist” (and gets some cracking lines such as “I’m saving myself until marriage, and I’ll use force if necessary”). Also contributing fine performances are a wheelchair-bound Macauley Culkin, Princess Diaries graduate Heather Matarazzo, and Susan Sarandon’s comically-gifted daughter Eva Amurri.

The strong underlying sociological message of ‘Saved!’ might make it sound a bit heavy-going, but in actual fact the exact opposite is true. In the wrong hands this could well have come across as smug, pretentious and perhaps even a little offensive, but first-time collaborators Urban and Dannelly clearly have a great deal of talent and ensure their product is likable, intelligent, and above all funny. If my one-time pen-pal has his facts right, I better get myself ready for Beelzebub.

It's Got: Jesus in the house!!

It Needs: ‘Mary’s Prayer’ by Danny Wilson on the soundtrack. C’mon, it’s obvious!!


Bible-bashingly good.