Owen Gleiberman
May 27, 2004 AT 04:00 AM EDT


Current Status
In Season
run date
Celia Keenan-Bolger, Julia Murney
Gary Griffin

We gave it a B

Saved! follows the standard teen-cliques-at-war format of ”Mean Girls” or early John Hughes, but with a difference: It’s set at a Christian high school, and everyone in it — teachers, prom queens, geeks — is proudly religious. Mandy Moore, as the senior bitch princess, leads a rock band for the Lord, and Pastor Skip (Martin Donovan) tries to win over the kids by hollering ”Let’s get our Christ on!” The director-cowriter, Brian Dannelly, has great fun tweaking the way American Christianity has been born again as a commodified, suburbanized, pop-saturated belief system.

Early on, the heroine, Mary (Jena Malone), learns that her boyfriend is gay, and when his parents send him off to Mercy House, a treatment center for sinners, I braced myself for a smug anticlerical bash. ”Saved!”, though, skewers hypocrisy and absolutism but not faith itself. Patrick Fugit, from ”Almost Famous,” turns up as the pastor’s son, and Fugit acts with a cherubic benevolence that makes you realize the kid he’s playing is a true believer — and all the sexier for it. The film has one dimension, however, that’s a major problem: Mary gets pregnant, and her crisis is ”resolved” with a starry-eyed naÏveté that borders on the irresponsible. I wish that ”Saved!” weren’t a facile pro-life movie. Its plea for Christian tolerance is message enough.

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