Mary (played by the winning Jena Malone) is at a crossroads in her life: entering her senior year at school, she learns that her hunky Christian boyfriend is gay. An inadvertant bump on the head forces her to believe that Jesus wants her to sacrifice her virginity in order to "save" the youth ... who still ends up being carted off to Mercy House, a religious-themed halfway house for drug-abusers and the "sexually confused." Now pregnant, Mary must make the best of her situation, making and losing friends and coming to grips with the fact that -- despite her beliefs -- the Lord is going to see to it that her life has changed.
At times, SAVED is hilariously funny. The script is very tight, and it makes great use of some very funny characters: a haughty-taughty high school drama queen thinking she's God's gift to mankind (played with surprising spirit by pop star Mandy Moore); her brother -- wheelchair-bound -- and certain he's no Christian (underplayed by Macaulay Culkin); the bad-girl Jewish teen who's been kicked out of every other religious school in the area and has to settle on a Christian alternative; and the principal's son, a bright-eyed charming young man who just wants to do the right thing. All of these characters mesh perfectly to the level of writing provided, and Mary Louise Parker makes a wonderful cameo-style appearance as Mary's mother -- a woman who can't quite separate what's right from ... well ... what's religiously right.
Sadly, the last twenty minute (or so) of the film do descend to the level of the typical teen comedy -- just above the cut of an After School Special but well below the bawdy mirth of PORKIES or any installment of the AMERICAN PIE series -- sliding heavily into the predictable. However, like a good Christian, the film finds redemption in its closing moments, chucking more family sentiment into a few frames than most family dramas manage in two hours of film.
Forget the fact that the film deals with Christianity: the story satirizes the religion's convictions as much as it supports them. Forget the fact that this is a cut-above-average teen film: again, the story satirizes teen angst as much as it validates it. Forget the fact that SAVED! might just be what God wanted: even Christ is given a hilarious cameo in the form of a message-delivering billboard without being heavy-handed. In the end, the movie will put a smile on your face ... and quite possibly leave it there for several days later.
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