Directed by Brian Dannelly.
Written by Brian Dannelly and Michael Urban.
Starring Jena Malone, Mandy Moore, Eva Amurri and Macaulay
Release Year: 2004
Review Date: 6/1/04
If you can get by the fact that your theater
will be chock-full of young, YOUNG women who love both Mandy Moore
AND Jena Malone, "Saved!" is a great time at the movies.
That's because the script by Brian
Dannelly--at least, for the first hour--does a great job of mixing
the politics of the modern-day Christian high school and the comedy
of its current inhabitants in this fictional Baltimore County
institution. On one side, there are good Christians, like the
angelic Hilary Faye (Moore) and her band of goody two-shoes
disciples, who at the start of the film include Mary (Malone), a
17-year-old that isn't 100% sure that this Young Life-style teenhood
is quite up her alley. Hilary is convinced that prayer can
solve any problem, from students that skip class, to drug use, to
sexual urges, to...overcoming "faggotry", as one misinformed
character hilariously drops somewhere mid-film. Mary, who
starts out as one of Hilary's best friends, gets pregnant via her
suddenly-gay boyfriend (Chad Faust) and then goes through a
harrowing senior year as she makes friends with a number of random
kids at the school, like the head of the Christian Skateboarders
Association, Patrick (Patrick Fugit), a Jewish transfer named
Cassandra (Eva Amurri), even Hilary's crippled friend Roland
Culkin, who hasn't been in much over the
years since he topped out in the "Home Alone" series, shows here in
"Saved!" that there might be a future ahead for his talents.
But his work is matched by almost everyone in the cast; the
performances in "Saved!" are truly inspired, an ensemble that is
very likable but has enough shades to give us some good guys, some
bad guys and some grey guys. Everywhere you turn, the acting
is fantastic: Amurri as the tortured outsider (clichéd as all
get out, but still quite strong); Mary-Louise Parker as the mom that
is too busy for her pregnant daughter; Martin Donovan as "Pastor
Skip", who enters a school assembly by doing a flip, and then
spittin' rhymes about The Lord...even Moore is fantastic, who turns
in the film's strongest performance as the over-the-top Holy vixen
Hilary. You are shaking your head sometimes at how far she
takes every bit of how prayer can solve the school's ills; her
unflagging persistence is maybe the scariest thing in the movie.
I may have dissed Moore as an actress before, but I have to take it
all back here...maybe the girl can do more than sing her ass
Like I said earlier, Dannelly does a great
job of stringing this thing along for the first hour, but in the
last 30 minutes of the film, you can just kind of feel "Saved!"
running out of steam. The religious commentary gives way to a
by-the-number teen drama (How will Mary deal with her pregnancy?
Will she go to her prom? Will teen love persevere?), and the
ending cleans everything up so nicely you almost--ALMOST--want to
hurl. Also, in the film's biggest gaffe, Malone's character
seems to not look pregnant until, oh, she's a week from having the
baby. Then the logic gives way; no one else seems to notice
that Mary is preggers either, despite the fact that she should be
weighing a bunch more than the 95 pounds she carries for 98% of the
I can forgive this, but just barely.
The acting and scripting is so rich in "Saved!"--especially in the
first two-thirds of the movie--that I can recommend this one without
sweatin' the technique. Or whatever the kids say these days.
Rating: $9.50 Show
Comments? Drop me a line at
Bellview Rating System:
"Opening Weekend": This is
the highest rating a movie can receive. Reserved for movies that
exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development,
setting...or Salma Hayek. Not necessarily in that order.
"$X.XX Show": This price
changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently,
it is the $9.50 Show. While not technically perfect, this is a
movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.
"Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca",
but you'll have a great time watching. The $9.50 Show won't win any
Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see
"Matinee": An average movie
that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.
Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about
yourself. A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave
the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that
Lakers game last night?"
"Rental": This rating
indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your
friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one." Mostly forgettable, you
couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to
watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the
video store was out of copies of "Ronin." If you can, see this
movie for free. This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a
"Hard Vice": This rating is
the bottom of the barrel. A movie that only six other human beings
have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen. A Shannon
Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every
one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a
movie. Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or
"Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this
movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!
(Warning: strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard