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About the movie: "Saved!"

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Color photograph of the actors in the Saved movie Overview:

Saved!, an United Artists movie, was released to 20 theatres on 2004-MAY-28. Its distribution was expanded across the rest of the U.S. and Canada on 2004-JUN-11. It is a comedy centered on two popular female students at a conservative Christian High School in the U.S.  Mary is played by Jena Malone; Hillary by Mandy Moore. At the start of their senior year, Mary finds out that she is pregnant. Her friend turns against her, as does the most of the rest of the student body. She becomes an outcast and searches for support from other students that have been similarly rejected by the student body because of their religion or disability. 1

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The plot:

Mary, a senior at the American Eagle Christian High School somewhere in the U.S. has a boyfriend who suspects that he may be be gay. She survives a swimming accident and has a hallucination which she interprets as a vision of Jesus. She thinks that Jesus tells her "to do everything she can do to help him." Mary assumes that she should try to convert him to heterosexuality through sexual intercourse. She ends up pregnant and is ostracized by the social elite at the school. She begins to find friends among the other pariahs in the school: a parapalegic, the only Jew among the student body, and a student rebel. According to the United Artist's web site, "In this sweetly subversive comedy, a group of outsiders band together to navigate the treacherous halls of high school and make it to graduation, ultimately learning more about themselves, finding faith in unexpected places, and realizing what it truly means to be Saved!" 1

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A "Christian Guide"

The Saved! web site includes a "Christian Guide" which attempts to explain the movie to conservative Christians. They describe the conflict that many conservative Christian teens feel because some experiences that they have in the real world cannot be discussed comfortably in church. The movie attempts to bridge this gap by showing teens who have made poor decisions, have a crisis of faith, search out answers, and later emerge with their faith strengthened. The movie includes dozens of topics which teens frequently experience today. They warn that "This movie will also make people uncomfortable or possibly offend." 1

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Comments by the producers and writers:

bullet Producer Sandy Stern: "When I read a script, I look for something original, something that stands part from the crowd, a story that is told in an exciting new say. When I read Saved!, it was so of the moment, so topical, had something to say, and it was funny...Part of Saved! is about being the outsider in high school, and unfortunately, I was able to relate to that. I think many people can."
bullet Producer Michael Stipe: "I thought it was one of the funnier and more absolutely audacious, subversive scripts I had seen in some time. I just fell in love with the characters and the story immediately."
bullet Writer/director Brian Dannelly: "As a kid I went to Catholic elementary school, Christian high school, and a Jewish summer camp. The biggest lesson I learned from my experiences became a line in the script: 'They can't all be wrong and they can't all be right.' I wanted to write a movie based on that....In my high school, we weren't allowed to dance. Everybody had to be at least six inches away from the opposite sex at all times. We had record burnings, and the entertainment at my senior prom was a puppet show. It wasn't very exciting."
bullet Co-writer Michael Urban: "I grew up in a traditional Baptist home in the South. Where I went to college in Tallahassee, Florida, I regularly saw people who lived in this metaphysical world with punishment and demons and things I had a hard time understanding. Sometimes things are twisted and exploited in the name of religion or God. I wanted to explore that."

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Film data:

bullet Screen play by: Brian Dannelly and Michael Urban
bullet Directed by: Brian Dannelly
bullet Produced by: Sandy Stern, Michael Stipe, Michael Ohoven, William Vince
bullet Cast: Eva Amurri, Macaulay Culkin, Martin Donovan, Patrick Fugit, Jena Malone, Heather Matarazzo, Mandy Moore, Mary-Louise Parker
bullet Studio: United Artists
bullet Production company: Single Cell Pictures & Infinity Media.
bullet Movie budget: 5 million, US dollars.
bullet Initial release date: 2004-MAY-28
bullet Rating: The film's MPAA rating is "PG-13 - for strong thematic issues involving teens - sexual content, pregnancy, smoking and language." It is rated 14+ in Ontario -- a rating that is accepted in some other provinces.
bullet Length: 92 minutes.

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Some comments by secular and religious reviewers:

bullet Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times comments: "Saved! is an important film as well as an entertaining one. People are going to think this movie is an attack of Christianity and what it is basically is an attack on intolerance."
bullet Claudia King of USA Today writes: "Subversively funny...unexpectedly sweet. Saved's irreverent take on phony reverence is refreshing."
bullet Manohla Dargis of the Los Angeles Times writes: "A sweet-tempered satire. The young actors in particular do a bang-up job, with Patrick Fugit, Macaulay Culkin and Eva Ammurri providing excellent support to Malone and Moore's opposition forces."
bullet Susannah Gora of Premier magazine writes: "It's nothing short of brilliant. In a time when we're bombarded with chirpy, cheezy teen stars and their mind-numbing cinematic efforts, thank heavens for 'Saved!'."
bullet Todd Hertz, reviewer for Christianity Today, wrote:

"For over a year, evangelicals have feared Saved! would harshly attack them all as hypocritical, judgmental, and intolerant. The truth is, the movie is ultimately pro-faith and does make some perceptive criticisms of evangelicals. But not all is well."

"The problem is a lack of balance between hypocritical, judgmental Christians and loving, accepting Christians. In fact, the movie almost exclusively shows two kinds of people—hypocritical, judgmental Christians who cause problems, and loving, accepting non-Christians who make things right."

bullet The conservative Christian reviewer of To The Source writes:  

"Saved! is a vicious attack on traditional Christianity...Several Christians working on the film quit in production. A Christian rock band that was to perform during prom scenes pulled out. So did a church that was to be used for some shots. Funding for Saved! was cut three times during production....throughout the film there is an absolute corollary between being a Christian and being cruel. Each time someone declares that they’re no longer a Christian or are very angry with God then they become human and acceptable....Saved! is an attack on the concept of orthodox belief." 3

bullet Peter Travers of RollingStone magazine writes: "An acutely perceptive and boldly hilarious satire. A different high school comedy -- this one digs deep and it matters, Blessed with a cast that is cream of the crop...Saved! is a blazing send-off for first-time directory Brain Dannelly." 1,2,3
bullet Philip Wuntch of the Dallas Morning News writes: "Saved! is never as outrageous as it wants to be, but some viewers will howl with laughter while others will howl in indignation....In its final quarter, Saved! takes considerable pains to reassure the viewer that it is not anti-religion, just anti-self-righteousness. By that time it already will have made both friends and enemies." 4
bullet Michael Atkinson of The Village Voice writes:

"Brian Dannelly's Saved! is a halfhearted case in point. A teen comedy spewing from within a Jesus-freak sensibility, the movie makes the fatal error of trying to mollify its targets and ameliorate its own scorched earth....But an overwhelming portion of Saved! is wall-to-wall Jesus-Jesus-Jesus talk, closer to dead air than social spoof. At times, the screenplay (including Mary's voluminous narration) has the monotonous cadence of a recruitment sermon. You decide whether Dannelly is merely tone-deaf or is skewering Christian fervor only and exactly up to the point where Christians might be offended. ...As any kind of statement, Dannelly's film is cowardly and confused—no one should be surprised if Christian coalitions co-opt it for their own purposes." 5

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bullet Terry Watkins of Dial-the-Truth Ministries, a fundamentalist Christian web site,  wrote:

"As the soon coming of the Lord Jesus is becoming more apparent every day, the ferocious attack at Bible Believing Christians is becoming more mainstream, more open and much more depraved.....A disturbing thermometer measuring the hate-filled temperature toward Bible Believing Christianity, while tenderly embracing the last days sin of homosexuality is the upcoming teen movie Saved! This mainstream movie is among the most open, blatant, mockery and attack on Bible Believing Christianity and Jesus Christ in modern times....The Christians are all portrayed as obnoxious, kooky, Christian rockers who are silly, rude, evil and violent hypocrites....In case you missed the Saved! message...Christians (like Judge Roy Moore) are extreme, hypocritical, obnoxious, intolerant, liars — devils in disguise. While the homosexuals (same sex marriage advocates) are wonderful, beautiful, kind, courageous, heroic and just generally divine." 6

bullet The Film Forum review stated:

"The film most likely to cause an outcry in the Christian press is called Saved. A satire about religious legalism, Saved takes place in the corridors of a Christian high school. The students are portrayed as something akin to zombies as they surround and try to redeem one of their fellow students who has become pregnant out of wedlock. Their condemnation and judgmentalism become the stuff of horror films...The film reportedly ends up affirming the existence of a benevolent deity, but ends up suggesting that God wants Christians to give up any divisive convictions about sexual orientation and just become a more tolerant community that embraces everybody's differences".

bullet Duane Byrge, of Sundance Film Festival "An irreverent, punchy jab at the more hideous transgressions of fundamentalist Christianity...this comedic jape delivers some sharp jabs at obvious targets, namely the boosterish excesses of American religiosity" 6
bullet David Rooney, of Variety magazine wrote that the film: "...appears bound to ruffle the feathers of religious conservatives...However, the spirited comedy ultimately kneels before an all-embracing deity, which could appease the God squad provided they get through all the wickedly funny zealot-bashing that comes first." 6
bullet FileThirteen wrote:

" 'Saved' takes on the modern [conservative] Christian church's stance on just about everything. Dating, divorce, homosexuality, premarital sex, abortion, unwed mothers and more. But its true genius is how it subtly points out the flaws inherent in the modern church. Mary makes a mistake and is left with huge problems and needs help urgently. Yet as a respected young member of her church, she is left with no one to turn to when she needs help. Why? Because her friends are loving Christians. They're the new judgmental Christians. In the new Christian church, to need help is to admit that you have done wrong and this seems to be considered the most unforgivable error of all. It's a paradox of the new Christian movement and one that will ultimately bring about their extinction. Christianity, in its purest and most divine form, is about love and forgiveness. It's not a clique or a situation to used in order to put one person in a position of authority over another. This theme is explored wonderfully and subtly in 'Saved.' It is one of the things that makes the film worth seeing." 7

bullet Assist News Service, a Fundamentalist Christian Internet news source, quotes Ted Baehr, founder of the Christian Film & Television Commission™ ministry: Baehr said that Saved! is a sad, bigoted, anti-Christian movie that mocks the Christian faith. He said that the movie

" being heavily marketed to the community it mocks, to lead Christian youth astray and make them resent their own faith....Cassandra is the real heroine who turns Mary away from the uptight Christian students who believe in faith, values, and the power of prayer....Looking at it from the point of view of other faiths highlights how bigoted the movie SAVED! is and reveals how MGM is marketing it to Christian children to try to divorce them from their faith!" 8

bullet On his web site MovieGuide, Ted Baehr gives the movie a two star rating and lists its "Moral Acceptability" as "Abhorrent" (the lowest possible rating). He writes:

"Intense anti-Christian bigotry and politically correct attack, with constant mocking of Christianity, Christian lifestyles and Christian beliefs, as well as a lack of any understanding of the role of the Holy Spirit in Christian theology, some references to other religions being right, a do what you want/follow your heart Romanticism, and pro-homosexual storyline...the entire movie is blasphemous;....mean-spirited politics of envy and pro-adultery storyline. Summary: SAVED! is a bigoted, frontal attack on Christians, who are depicted as confused and mean-spirited. The movie’s insane conclusion is that sinners are better people and have stronger family bonds....Unfortunately, SAVED! is only going to drum up more hate toward Christians at a time when persecution of Christians is running rampant throughout our society and throughout the world." 9

bullet A poll of visitors to the MovieNation web site showed that 46% of the 884 visitors who had seen the movie gave it the highest rating: "It's worth seeing right away on the big screen." 10

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References used:

  1. The official web site of the movie "Saved!," is at:
  2. "Overview," at:
  3. "Saved! Director Dannelly's film ridicules the Christian audience he now hopes will save Saved!," To the Source, at:
  4. Philip Wuntch, "Movie review: Saved!," Dallas Morning News, 2004-JUN-11, at:
  5. Michael Atkinson, "Beyond belief: Jesus-freak satire panders to Christians and heathens alike," The Village Voice, 2004-MAY-21, at:
  6. Terry Watkins, "Saved! Heaven help us," Dial-the-Truth Ministries, at:
  7. "Saved (2004)," at:
  8. "New movie mocks Christian faith," Assist News Service, 2004-JUN-11, at:
  9. "SAVED! Embittered Bigotry," MovieGuide, at:
  10. MovieNation's poll is at:

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Other web sites:

bullet A Saved! movie poster measuring 27" x 41" is available at:
bullet Empire Movies has a selection of short clips from the movie at:

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Copyright © 2004 to 2006 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2004-JUN-11
Latest update: 2006-SEP-04
Author: B.A. Robinson

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