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
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!"
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
Comments by the producers and writers:
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."
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."
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."
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."
Screen play by: Brian Dannelly and Michael Urban
Directed by: Brian Dannelly
Produced by: Sandy Stern, Michael Stipe, Michael Ohoven, William
Cast: Eva Amurri, Macaulay Culkin, Martin Donovan, Patrick Fugit,
Jena Malone, Heather Matarazzo, Mandy Moore, Mary-Louise Parker
Studio: United Artists
Production company:Single Cell Pictures & Infinity Media.
Movie budget: 5 million, US dollars.
Initial release date: 2004-MAY-28
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.
Length: 92 minutes.
Some comments by secular and religious reviewers:
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
Claudia King of USA Today
writes: "Subversively funny...unexpectedly sweet. Saved's
irreverent take on phony reverence is refreshing."
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."
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!'."
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."
The conservative Christian reviewer of To The Source writes:
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
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
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
Michael Atkinson of The Village Voice
"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
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
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".
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"
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
" '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
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
"...is 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
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
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