Release Date:  May 28, 2004
Rating:  PG-13 (for strong thematic issues involving teens - sexual content, pregnancy, smoking and language)
Genre:  Comedy/Drama
Run Time: 92 minutes
Director:  Brian Dannelly
Actors:  Jena Malone, Mandy Moore, Macauley Culkin, Patrick Fugit, Chad Faust, Heather Matarazzo, Eva Amurri, Martin Donovan and Mary-Louise Parker

Writer and director Brian Dannelly goes for the jugular with “Saved!” He ridicules worship, prayer, contemporary Christian music and teen rallies, portraying participants as deluded weirdos chasing a feel-good experience. He portrays prayer meetings as gossip sessions and church leaders as hypocrites. He mocks sexual virtue. Dannelly makes fun of attempts to de-secularize Christmas (“Santa = Satan”). He derides the possibility of God’s mercy. He even ridicules the crucifixion, with a close-up on the gold lame-covered genitals of the teen that plays Jesus in a school production.

“Now that’s what I call being hung on the cross!” a cheeky girl comments.

Actress Mandy Moore appeared on “Good Morning America” this week, where she insisted that “Saved!” shows “both the good and the bad” about Christianity while revealing what “true faith” really is. She dismissed criticism, saying, “The people who are criticizing this film haven’t seen it.”

Well, I’ve seen it, and I disagree – strongly. Rather than a humorous satire that exposes hypocrisy within a well-intentioned or otherwise godly community, “Saved!” (with a cross over the exclamation point) is a relentless assault that maligns anyone and everyone associated with the Christian faith – especially those who disagree with the gay lifestyle.

Seventeen-year-old Mary (Jena Malone) has been “born again” her whole life. “Accepting Jesus into your life is a big decision,” she explains. “Especially for a three-year-old.” This naïveté sets the tone for the movie, which focuses on a group of teenage Christians who live, eat, sleep and breathe everything Christian. They go to a Christian high school and participate in all sorts of exclusive, cliquish Christian groups. The leader of a worship band, Hilary Faye (Moore) is every teenager’s worst nightmare. She gossips, slanders and uses her faith as self-righteous justification to manipulate everyone. Her mission in life is to “evangelize” those who don’t know Jesus. Kidnapping and brainwashing are acceptable means – as are throwing Bibles.

When Mary’s boyfriend, Dean (Chad Faust), tells her that he is gay, Mary is shocked. A construction worker, momentarily transformed into a vision of the crucified Christ wearing a crown of thorns, bids Mary to help Dean. Hilary Faye unknowingly gives Mary the solution – while the two practice shooting at the gun range – by informing her that God can and will restore a girl’s “spiritual and emotional virginity.” Believing she is doing God’s will, Mary seduces Dean and becomes pregnant. But, after Dean’s parents discover homosexual pornography under his bed, they send him off to Mercy House, a mysterious, cult-like place “where they deal with everything from drug addiction to de-gay-ification to unwed mothers.”

Mary conceals her pregnancy with the help of a rebellious Jewish student (Eva Amurri) and Hilary Faye’s unbelieving brother (Macauley Culkin), who is confined to a wheelchair. Then the pastor’s hunky son (Patrick Fugit) falls for Mary, making Hilary Faye jealous. Meanwhile, Mary’s mother and her pastor are committing adultery.