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MGM Studios DVD presents
Saved! (2004)

Roland: Mary? What is she doing downtown?
Cassandra: There's only one reason Christian girls come down to the Planned Parenthood.
Roland: She's planting a pipe bomb?

- Macaulay Culkin, Eva Amurri

Review By: Joel Cunningham  
Published: October 04, 2004

Stars: Jena Malone, Mandy Moore, Macaulay Culkin, Patrick Fugit
Other Stars: Heather Matarazzo, Eva Amurri, Martin Donovan, Mary-Louise Parker
Director: Brian Dannelly

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for strong thematic issues involving teens—sexual content, pregnancy, smoking, and language
Run Time: 01h:32m:23s
Release Date: October 05, 2004
UPC: 027616902832
Genre: comedy

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

Saved! seems like a movie destined to create a stir. Based on the director's experiences at a Christian high school, it follows the story of May (Jena Malone), born again since the day she was born, a popular senior at American Eagle Christian High School. Her boyfriend comes out of the closet to her, and after a bump on the head, Mary has a vision of Jesus and comes to the conclusion that the best way to help her boyfriend get rid of the gay is to have sex with him. Soon enough, he's been shipped off to a reprogramming camp and she finds herself pregnant, and doubting her faith in God.

But despite the set-up, and the fact that much of the rest of the film is concerned with poking fun at teen evangelicals like Hilary Faye (Mandy Moore), who is tight with Jesus and out to make sure you are, too, religious groups mounted few protests against it. Who knows why (probably because Disney didn't release it—that's what triggered the outcry against Dogma). Perhaps it's because, despite a sharp, satirical first half that skewers the knee-jerk, close-minded reactions of Hilary Faye and her friends (including an Vietnamese girl who thanks Jesus for allowing her to be adopted and saved from the fiery damnation facing her less informed kin), the movie quickly downshifts into a fairly typical teen romance/coming of age story that feels a little too familiar and formulaic.

Where Saved! really excels is not in its bland, by-the-numbers teen romance between Mary and Patrick (Patrick Fugit), the son of the principal Pastor Skip and a member of a Christian skateboarding team, nor the ostensible message at its core (a rather pandering speech about the nature of faith and judging others that basically boils down to "can't we all just get along?"). I find Saved! is redeemed by attention to detail. I've had some experience with Christian concerts and evangelical churches and teen-centric worship and the like, and writer/director Brian Dannelly's script, uh, nails it. From the Led Zeppelin-themed Jesus shirt Patrick Fugit wears throughout, to Pastor Skip's catch phrases ("Are you down with G-O-D?"), to the way the kids all earnestly raise their hands up to the sky as they pray, Saved! gets everything right.

Though the storyline relies on some rather familiar teen movie rhythms (it even ends at the prom, fer gosh sakes!), the writer's obvious affection for the characters is another plus. Mary deals with some pretty heady stuff, doubting her faith and questioning her core beliefs, and she's easy to relate to even when the story gets bogged down. Mandy Moore is most memorable, an aggressive zealot who is number one in the cool Christian crowd, Jesus' head cheerleader ("Tell me," she says to missionary Patrick, "which country has the worst heathens? Because I'm really interested in that."). She seems like a caricature, and her status as chief hypocrite does provide a number of the film's best laughs (at one point, she whips a bible at Mary and shrieks, "You're just jealous of my success in the Lord!"), but she, too, is treated with a modicum of compassion.

Part of the problem is, Saved! simply packs in too much story. I'd rather have the focus placed more squarely on Mary's struggles. Instead, much time is taken up with a poorly developed romance between bad girl Cassandra (Eva Amuri), the first "Jewish" at American Eagle Christian, and Hilary Faye's wheelchair-bound brother Roland (Macaulay Culkin). They have more than a few scenes together, but both are, on the whole, rather poorly developed. We also see adults struggle with faith, as Pastor Skip and Mary's mother (Mary-Louise Parker) explore their attraction to one another and try to figure out how to deal with Mary's mistake, but their story, too, is rushed. I don't know if the material needed to be cut, or the entire movie made longer; all I know is, as it is, the side stories frequently drag, and the movie feels much longer than its 90 minutes.

That said, Saved! is worth seeing, if only to prove that even a formulaic teen movie can have brains and heart. There's merit in the message, which attempts to show that Jesus was more about love and acceptance than demanding rigid adherence to the rules. And, for much of its running time, Saved! deals with that idea with intelligence and subtlety. That is, until the climax, which, oddly enough, gets a little preachy.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Video quality for this low-budget release is fairly strong, with bright colors and good detail. Grain isn't a distraction, nor is artifacting or edge enhancement. Per usual, the image shows a bit of aliasing on a standard television, but the problem is diminished on anamorphic sets.

Image Transfer Grade: A-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: Saved! offers the audio mix you'd expect for this type of film—most everything is featured front and center. The dialogue is anchored in the center and fairly clear, but a bit soft when compared to the rest of the track, which places effects and the noisy pop soundtrack into the front mains. Surrounds are active only for minimal atmospheric effect.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
8 Other Trailer(s) featuring Walking Tall, Bubba Ho-Tep, Touching the Void, Intermission, Barbershop 2: Back in Business , Soul Plane, Dorm Daze, Wicker Park
11 Deleted Scenes
1 Featurette(s)
2 Feature/Episode commentaries by director/co-writer Brian Dannelly, co-writer Michael Urban, producer Sandy Stern; actors Jena Malone and Mandy Moore
Packaging: Keep Case
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extra Extras:
  1. Bloopers
  2. Saved! Revelations
Extras Review: Saved! has been blessed with a decent offering of bonus features, though they're more impressive in theory than in practice.

The two commentary tracks, the first from director/co-writer Brian Dannelly, co-writer Michael Urban, and producer Sandy Stern, and the second from stars Jena Malone and Mandy Moore, are both, to quote Homer Simpson, more boring than church. I knew I was in trouble with the former when, not five minutes in, one of the trio piped in with something akin to "Can we just stop and talk about how amazing it is to have MANDY MOORE! Singing! God Only Knows! In our movie!" Yes, they seem to find everything about the movie to be pretty amazing, from the sets, to the actors, to every single scene. The track was recorded eight days before the film premiered, and they talk a lot about how they don't understand the big right-wing protests against it, except there really were no groups that spoke out against the film—certainly not on the level of the attacks against Dogma or The Last Temptation of Christ. In general, it seems like they're trying to make a lot more of their innocuous little satire than is really there. The second track, with the stars, isn't much better, but you expect such bland pronouncements from actors, particularly such young ones, so it isn't as annoying. I actually found it refreshing that the two seem, despite their years in the spotlight, to be fairly level-headed and well-adjusted—nothing like the raunchy airheads babbling through, say, the Blue Crush commentary.

Once you've gone through the commentaries, you can plow through the rest of the bonus material in about 20 minutes.

Heaven Help Us is a four-minute combination trailer and featurette that might as well be just the trailer (which, by the way, is also included). Why bother, I ask. Because we can list it as a bullet-point on the back of the box, is the obvious reply.

Saved! Revelations is kind of neat, a gallery of brief film clips that point out subtle gags throughout the film, like the lingerie catalog hidden behind Macaulay Culkin's comic book in one scene (Moore and Malone also point it out on their commentary; they describe it as "really tacky lingerie").

Eleven deleted/alternate scenes total around 16 minutes. Most are simple scene extensions, or alternate takes with slightly different dialogue (some of it a bit racier, and wisely deleted, I think). I found most of the footage unnecessary and redundant, particularly since the features drags as it is, but they're still a nice inclusion. One, however, a funny discussion of the merits of a religious system that would save a repentant Jeffrey Dahmer but doom a Vietnamese child who'd never heard of Jesus, should have stayed in. Four blooper scenes close out the disc. They're cute, but not really all that funny, as these things go.

Other Great MGM Releases apparently include Walking Tall, Bubba Ho-Tep, Touching the Void, Intermission, Barbershop 2: Back in Business , Soul Plane, and National Lampoon's Dorm Daze. A clip for Wicker Park also plays when you insert the disc.

Extras Grade: B


Final Comments

Saved! is an entertaining, if hit-or-miss teen comedy masquerading as satire (though the creative team wishes you'd look at it the other way 'round). When it hits the mark, it's often very funny, but when it doesn't, it's often bland or downright preachy (no pun intended). MGM's disc is pretty nice, though, and worthy of salvation.


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