a critiQal film review Saved! (2004)

Plot: Mary (Malone) is part of a Christian band, attends a Christian school, and has a wonderful Christian boyfriend, Dean (Faust). But when Dean tells her he's gay, she goes to drastic measures to "save" him. But when she becomes pregnant, what will she do - and how will everyone in her Christian circle of friends react?

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  • ...I never thought I would say this for a Macaulay Culkin or Mandy Moore film (much less a combination of both!), but this one is worth watching again.

A movie that has a religious overtone? Not really at the top of my list, usually. But wait – it’s got Mandy Moore (okay – easy to see)…and Macaulay Culkin (Mr.-I-Married-When-I-Was-10) in a wheelchair? And after hitting theaters – it became a huge comedy hit? Huh? Did I miss something? Apparently…so I just had to check out Saved!

Mandy Moore has been “acting” (if that’s what you want to call it) for quite awhile now, but never in something average Joe would want to see (average Jane maybe, but that’s something totally different). With every single movie of her career up to this point, she’s stayed in basically the same role, in basically the same plot: average girl Mandy and some guy fall madly in love and live happily ever after. Blah, blah, blah.

The girls love it, the guys can’t stand it – and Mandy has usually catered to young teen girls, rather than, say, women over the age of 17 – basically bubble gum films that are quickly forgotten (I can’t even think of a single film title off the top of my head).

With her role in Saved!, she steps out of those well-trodden roads, and jumps into something completely different – and gives a stand-out performance. She’s perfect as the zealous Hillary Faye in every little detail. After watching this film, you won’t be able to think of a single person that could have filled those shoes better.

Macaulay Culkin (Ha! Didn’t think you would ever be seeing him in another movie, did you?) also makes his comeback in this film. He plays a different role than we’re used to: he’s crippled, stuck in a wheelchair, and over-lorded by his sister Mandy. It’s a nice change for him as well, and he actually gets enough into his character to make you want him to hang around throughout the film – which is more can be said for that annoying Home Alone (1990)/Good Son kid, that’s for sure. If this is just the start, you might actually find yourself wanting to see what’s next for Macaulay.

Jena Malone, Patrick Fugit, Eva Amurri, Martin Donovan and the rest of the cast do a good job throughout Saved! as well. Since Jena is the main character, she’s got the toughest job of the lot, but she manages it easily. It’s amazing how well the cast works together. Sure, it’s not perfect, but it’s one of the best casts overall I’ve seen in a long while.

The plot pokes a bit of fun at religious zealots, at a time when the country can relate, since we’re dealing with a couple of religious zealots ourselves. That might have been the start of it’s popularity, but the movie goes so much further than that. It does have a message, but overall Saved! is just a really fun film to watch.

The script is hilarious, and will have most people cracking up (whether they want to or not). It’s not a surprise to me that this movie didn’t receive as much anti-media as, say, The Passion of the Christ (2004) did, even though they both are focused around Christianity.

Saved! tries to let the viewers know that there might just be such a thing as being too religious. It seems to be saying that it’s okay if you believe, but you won’t help anyone else convert if you force it down their throat. You can encourage, but demanding never works (then again, that’s maybe just what I got out of it, having dealt with a few religious zealots in the past myself).

Be you a believer or a non-believer, Saved! is worth checking out. It won’t offend many, and most will be laughing most of the way through, while at the same time getting a bit of a lesson on morality along the way.

And, although I never thought I would say this for a Macaulay Culkin or Mandy Moore film (much less a combination of both!), Saved! is definitely a film that I wouldn’t mind watching again, mostly thanks to the great cast – even though the ending wraps everything up just a little bit too perfectly.

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