Gary Couzens has reviewed Saved! a pleasant if insubstantial comedy in UK cinemas now.
Mary (Jena Malone) is one of God’s children. She and her best friend Hilary Faye (Mandy Moore) are seniors at the American Eagle Christian High School. Then Mary’s boyfriend tells her he thinks he’s gay. So what is a good Christian girl and proud wearer of a True Love Waits badge to do? The answer arrives in a vision: she must sleep with him so that he can be cured of his inversion. Only she ends up pregnant…
Saved! certainly has its funny moments and is generally well acted, but you wonder how a film like this could ever consider itself subversive. It’s a soft-centred comedy that thinks it’s a scathing satire of evangelical Christianity. And if that isn’t a great big sitting target, I don’t know what is. Saved! sides with the rebels early on: Hilary Faye’s wheelchair-bound brother Roland (Macaulay Culkin) and cynical Jewish rebel Cassandra (Eva Amurri, Susan Sarandon’s daughter) who has been expelled from every other school in the district. Also, Hilary Faye’s heavily made up look is less than subtle when compared to the more natural look favoured by the rest of the female cast.
On the plus side, first-time director Brian Dannelly gets good performances out of a cast largely made up of former child actors – and he’s picked some of the more talented from this age group. Jena Malone doesn’t have the showiest role, but she does have the job of holding the whole film together, which she does very ably. Eva Amurri gives a very expressive performance which makes more of her role than you suspect is on the screenplay page. Despite what you may have heard, Saved! is not a Macaulay Culkin vehicle – he’s one of an ensemble cast – but he gives a good account of himself without overplaying his role. Among the adults Martin Donovan does well as an everyone’s-best-friend school principal, though Mary-Louise Parker has less to do as Jena Malone’s mother.
It’s a pity that inspiration tends to desert this film in the final third and Saved! becomes predictable and rather saccharine. As well as acting, Mandy Moore features on the soundtrack as well, duetting with producer Michael Stipe on a cover of the Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows”.
It’s the end, but the moment has been prepared for…
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