Teenage Mary Cummings, who has "been Born Again her whole life," is about to enter her senior year at American Eagle Christian High School near Baltimore with her Fundamentalist Christian friends Hilary Faye and Veronica, the three of whom have formed a girl group called the Christian Jewels. Everything seems perfect—until Mary’s "perfect Christian boyfriend" Dean tells her, as they’re swimming underwater, that he thinks he's gay.
This teen satire set in a Christian high school is an admirable attempt to acknowledge the powerful influence of religion in contemporary American youth culture. The director Brian Dannelly resists easy, smug caricature, but the picture ultimately fails both as comedy and as sentimental melodrama, veering from not-very-funny jokes to canned speeches about tolerance and human fallibility. This is a shame, since the bright young cast (especially Mandy Moore, relishing the chance to play a villainous, self-righteous teenage queen be) performs with conviction and high spirits. Jena Malone plays Mary, who becomes pregnant while trying to cure her gay boyfriend and whose crisis separates the pious hypocrites from the decent folk. In the end, "Saved!" is an exercise in liberal humanist piety, a peace offering in the culture wars that is sadly unable to realize its good intentions, or to make you laugh. — A. O. Scott
2004-05-28 | A. O. Scott | Read the New York Times Review of Saved!