Movie Review

Saved!also known as “¡Salvados!,” “¡Salvada!,” “Galera do Mal,” “Kurtar beni!,” “Saved! - Die Highschool-Missionarinnen,” “Sothikame!”

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for strong thematic issues involving sexual content, pregnancy, smoking and language.

Reviewed by: Jeremy Landes
CONTRIBUTOR

Extremely Offensive
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Teens
Genre:
Comedy
Length:
1 hr. 32 min.
Year of Release:
2004
USA Release:
January 21, 2004 (festival)
May 28, 2004 (limited)
DVD: October 5, 2004
Copyright, United Artists
Copyright, United Artists
Copyright, United Artists
Copyright, United Artists
Copyright, United Artists
Relevant Issues
Copyright, United Artists

HYPOCRISY—Judging from all the hypocrisy in the church, why should anyone want to be a Christian? Answer

THE NEW TOLERANCE—It’s politically correct, but does it hold danger for followers of Christ? Is love the same thing as tolerance? Answer

ALL RELIGION THE SAME?—The director/writer of SAVED! says: “They can’t all be wrong, and they can’t all be right.” Are all religions basically the same? Is there any valid reason that Christians should insist that one must believe in Christ to be saved? Answer

WHERE’S THE TRUTH?—With so many cults and denominations, how can I decide which are true and which are false? Answer

Teenagers
Teen Qs™ - Christian Answers for teenagers
Teens! Have questions? Find answers in our popular TeenQs section. Get answers to your questions about life, dating and much more.

Sex

How can I deal with temptations? Answer

Should I save sex for marriage? Answer

What are the consequences of sexual immorality? Answer

How can I tell if I’m getting addicted to sex or pornography? Answer

Relationship issues
Learn how to make your love the best it can be. Discover biblical answers to questions about sex, marriage, sexual addictions, and more.

Homosexuality

What’s wrong with being gay? Answer

What should be the attitude of the church toward homosexuals and homosexuality? Answer

What about gays needs to change? (It may not be what you think.) Answer

Can a gay or lesbian person go to heaven? Answer

Featuring: Jena Malone (Mary)—“The United States of Leland,” “Cold Mountain

Mandy Moore (Hilary Faye)—“How to Deal,” “A Walk to Remember,” “The Princess Diaries

Macaulay Culkin (Roland)—“Home Alone,” “Party Monster,” “Getting Even With Dad,” “Richie Rich”

Patrick Fugit (Patrick)—“White Oleander,” “Almost Famous

Mary-Louise Parker (Lillian), more »
Director: Brian Dannelly
Producer: United Artists, Single Cell Pictures, Infinity Media, James Forsyth Casting Inc., Red Bull Productions, more »
Distributor: United Artists

“Heaven help us.”

Brian Dannelly’s film, “Saved!” is a comedy-drama centered around the fictional Eagle Mountain Christian High School, where Jesus’ name is spouted as if He’s a popular soft drink—complete with advertising buttons ready to be pinned onto anyone’s backpack and make them eternally popular. The mostly white students live within wealthy suburbs, venturing into the city only long enough to picket abortion clinics.

Audience members are asked to believe this is a community where one might win the “Christian Home Decorating Award of the Year” to wild acclaim. During high school assemblies, the one teen who rebelliously mocks her Christian classmates is targeted by a spotlight, as the school principal asks if anyone wants to get saved. “Getting saved” in “Saved!” is a flip decision that a three-year-old who knows no better may make. True repentance for sin, freedom from its bonds, and laying down one’s life for your friends are none to be seen here.

In fact, based on this movie, one could easily get the idea that calling yourself an evangelical Christian puts you in the categories of judgmental, rude, violent, and stupid. It comes as no surprise that the credits give special thanks to George H. Smith for his book, Atheism: The Case Against God.

FAQ: How can we know there is a God? Answer

The formulaic plot of “Saved!” deals primarily with Mary (Jena Malone), a self-identified Christian whose boyfriend, Dean (Chad Faust), announces, “I think I’m gay!” Moments later, Mary nearly drowns, and she believes Jesus appears, telling her to help Dean. She interprets the “vision” to mean that Jesus wants her to become sexually involved with Dean. Soon after, she is pregnant and furious with God for betraying her. We watch Mary reject God while looking at a cross and trying out several profane words for the first time, defying God to prove His existence to her.

Meanwhile, Dean’s Christian parents ship him off to a care center after finding his pornography, hoping to keep their son away from a homosexual lifestyle. Dean is shown having a great time at the center, where he shares a room with another teen who is there for the same reason. Dean is shown lusting after this boy, and they are soon sweethearts at the prom who are proud of their homosexual choices.

When Mary tells her friends where Dean is, she swears them to secrecy. Her best friend, Hilary Faye (Mandy Moore) promises to keep quiet, then she reveals the secret to their school via a prayer meeting flyer. Through this plotline and some other scenes, Christians are depicted as notorious gossips.

Copyright, United Artists

The principal of the Christian school, Pastor Skip (Martin Donovan), is married to a woman who left him years ago to serve as a missionary in South America. He uses “hip” jargon, ridiculously asking students, “Are you ready to get your Jesus on?” Skip performs round-offs, and he rejoices in Christian music that sounds just like mainstream rock, so the gospel message can be subtly slipped in. Pastor Skip begins an affair with Mary’s mother, who also professes to be a believer. Through this plot point, Christians, especially leaders, are depicted as liars, adulterers, and hypocrites.

Christians are portrayed as violent and devious. Hilary Faye and Mary practice shooting handguns, in order to protect their bodies from rapists, at the “Eye for an Eye Shooting Range”—a location presumably designed to welcome Christians. Later in the film, Hilary Faye and her friends forcibly tackle Mary and attempt to exorcise demons from her. Failing that, Hilary Faye throws a Bible forcefully at Mary, hitting her on the head. Hilary Faye later frames Mary and her friends by painting lewd graffiti around the school, which leads to their expulsion.

Hypocrisy

Is there hypocrisy among Christians? Yes, far too much. and there always has been. But it’s certainly not being condoned. Is HYPOCRISY a valid argument against following Christ? Answer

As Hilary Faye, actress Mandy Moore is given the unenviable task of portraying evil incarnate, and her acting lacks subtlety or depth. The only explanation given for her viciousness is the fact that she was once very fat. They may as well have cast the Wicked Witch of the West to play the role.

Besides Mary, the other heroes of “Saved!” include Roland (Macaulay Culkin), Hilary Faye’s handicapped brother who has rejected Christ, and Cassandra (Eva Amurri), a rebellious Jewish teen who delights in mocking and abusing the Christian kids. In perhaps the film’s most offensive scene, Cassandra pretends to speak in tongues at a school assembly, while she exposes her body to the school. Hilary Faye finally steps in and utters the lewd phrase Cassandra had been actually communicating under the guise of pig Latin.

While the film’s message is being preached during a stand-off at the prom, the character Dean, home from rehabilitation, crashes the dance with his gay lover. Dean says emphatically, “I know in my heart that Jesus still loves me!” Young men and women may see “Saved!” and take away a message that Jesus accepts them despite whatever sinful actions they may choose. To read more about what the Bible says about this, click here.

Despite the fact that “Saved!” takes a lot of farcical low blows at Christians (too many to name in this review), this comedy merits very few laughs (besides its own cliché-ridden and predictable plotline) and hammers home a saccharine message of universal tolerance and goodwill that writers of “Barney” might have discarded as too obvious and trite.

As a follower of Jesus, I regret having seen “Saved!” in the same way one might regret visiting a classroom of ninth graders who’ve been programmed to mock you. I know that the movie was not made with a Christ-centered audience in mind; rather, it appeals to Americans who, according to most polls, believe a God exists but can’t agree on whether He has called them to live according to any standard. The heroes of the film (who challenge their hypocritical principal, parents, and classmates) acknowledge God with their lips, but they live according to their own desires and moral standards, not Christ’s.

Over the last few months, there has been a new wave of worldwide interest in Christ because of Mel Gibson’s “The Passion…” “Saved!” feels like a backlash—a picture of how many people in Hollywood view evangelical believers. At least one of the plot points may convict believers—those who choose to spread gossip via prayer requests. Don’t count on much more of “Saved!” to point out your sin—its characters are mostly too broad to believe or identify with.

Believers who choose to respond with anger or hatred toward “Saved!” may inadvertently mimic the judgmental cardboard cutout “Christian” characters presented in the film, and Christ’s name will continue being tainted. If believers choose to combat the ideas in “Saved!” with the following Scripture in mind,

“Always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.” (1 Peter 3:15)

…a watching world may note the contrast.

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.


Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Comments below:
Movie Critics
…though director Brian Dannelly has every right to address and relieve his obvious beef with right-wing Christianity… he makes absolutely no distinction between the good Christian and the right-wing nut… this is a film that sees only in black-and-white …not to promote kindness amongst the masses, but to mock a belief system… to promote anti-Christian resentment…
—Ed Gonzalez, Slant Magazine
…a sad, bigoted, anti-Christian movie that mocks the Christian faith…
—Ted Baehr, founder of the Christian Film and Television Commission [more below]
…the adults are all idiots… An irreverent, punchy jab at the more hideous transgressions of fundamentalist Christianity…
—Duane Byrge, The Hollywood Reporter
Positive
Positive—Make no bones about it, this film can be offensive and should not be taken lightly. Showing it to those with a young faith might be detrimental to them. That said, I watched this movie, and I saw myself. At some point in my life, I’ve had something in common with every character in this movie. I’ve struggled with lust. I’ve used my faith to make myself look good. I’ve been the boy who lost his faith, because he couldn’t overcome a sin. I’ve felt rejected by fellow christians for the same. I’ve raised my hands during worship because everyone else did. It hurts only because it’s true.

One scene that struck home involved the lead character cursing for the first time. I remember doing the same thing during my teens when I didn’t know what to do. As far as Christian values go, my feelings are complex. The movie doesn’t ridicule Christianity itself so much as the saccharine manner in which it is often practiced. God does love homosexuals, single mothers, hypocrites, Atheists, and even those who curse at him. But we as Christians often fail to do so ourselves. There isn’t a scene in here which has not been based on a true event.

The world is watching our behavior and they are letting us know. The rebellious Jewish girl who rejects every forceful attempt aimed at getting her “saved,” prays at one point and her prayer is answered. The pastor’s “hunky” son isn’t unbelieving as the review states, he’s the only Christian in the movie who acts as a Christian should! He is the only one who loves unconditionally! This movie is NOT for non-Christians. I think that those who most need to see this movie are the ones will be most offended. It is about hypocrisy and it hits Home.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/4½]
—Daniel, age 24
Positive—I LOVE and FEAR God and this movie fairly represents the Christian community. We are all sinners! I have seen so many Christians like the ones in this movie both antagonist and protagonist. We make mistakes and all the Christians in the movie realize their mistakes by the end! What this movie bashes are the people who sin constantly and never repent while using the bible as a weapon rather than a guide for life. As a Christian, this movie made me reflect more on how I behave in and how I need to recognize the results of my actions.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/5]
—Jeremy, age 22
Positive—I thought “Saved” was fantastic. Yes, it is a satirical look at a group of popular teenagers at a Christian high school struggling with some major choices, and that will freak some people out. And most of the characters call into question their faith, but by the end EVERY character is strengthen by their experiences and renews their commitment to Christ. I really liked it.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/4]
—Kelly, age 19
Positive—I am a Christian, and I enjoyed this movie… This movie shows we should be tolerant of others. God loves all of us Christian or not. This movies shows how it is so easy to preach the word of God, but striving to live the word of God and our actions are often more important.
My Ratings: [Good/5]
—Mark, age 32
Positive—I’m having a hard time giving this film a proper moral rating… From a traditional Christian standpoint, I’d agree that the film was offensive. On the other hand, having been walking with the Lord for 10 years and having seen my fair share of real life stories like the one in this film… not to mention my experiences with the real life Hilary Faye’s (women and men) whom I’ve encountered in church, I give it a rating of Excellent! I don’t believe this is an anti-Christian film. I believe this film was ordained by God to convict us. While we are hiding in church on Sunday morning, the world around us is dying… and many of us do not care. All we do is congratulate one another for being “saved” and take pity on the world because they are not like us. That is just as sinful in the eyes of Christ as homosexuality is. In the end, this film is a reminder of Jesus’s command to take the plank out of our own eyes so we can help our brothers and sisters with the speck of dust in theirs. I fully support and endorse this film.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/3]
—Chris Utley, age 31
Positive—I wasn’t one to really be offended by this film. I thought it was an interesting take on CCM Christianity and wasn’t attack on God, the Bible, or even Christians. More so, it was an attack on Christians who are condescending to the rest of the world that don’t realize that kindness leads towards repentance. The writers clearly have a belief in Christ because when Jena Malone is talking at the end after she’s been through all of this, she still sincerely says that she really does believe Mary to have been a virgin when Jesus was born. Even Mandy Moore at the very end when she screws up and realizes how much bad she was to everyone, says, “Jesus still loves me.” As does the homosexual character, which its true, we can’t argue that. And the truth is, it does show a good side of Christians in the Pastor’s Son, played by Patrick Fugit. He’s the kindest and most gentle of all the characters and just spent three years as in South Africa or whatever as a missionary. I can understand why some Christians would be offended, but they shouldn’t. We need to think and be level headed about films and pull away what truth we can from each one. This one is no exception.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/3]
—Joey Chappell of Azusa Pacific University, age 19
Positive—…This film does not mock Christianity—it mocks those who see Christianity as a license for exclusion. Christ loves everyone, warts and all—this film reinforces that message. True Christianity has nothing to do with logos and rock bands—it’s about living like Christ, which includes loving those who may have made different choices than may be considered optimal. An important film. Not recommended for the ignorant.
My Ratings: [Good/3½]
—Brian Dear, age 27
Positive—…I thought this movie was genius… I thought this movie showed that god loves us all, and that we are all screwed up and need god to guide us through life. Did everyone against this move not hear the last line that the main character said “what would Jesus do? I’m not really sure, all I know is I’m going to keep searching it out together.” I think that this is what we all should be thinking and feeling. At the end of the movie when the picture was taken of all of everyone in the hospital I was brought to tears because I saw love humility and commitment like it should be.
My Ratings: [Excellent!/5]
—Dustin Saylor, age 22
Think about it

Judging from all the HYPOCRISY in the church, why should anyone want to be a Christian? Answer

THE NEW TOLERANCE—It’s politically correct, but does it hold danger for followers of Christ? Is love the same thing as tolerance? Answer

The director/writer of SAVED! says: “They can’t all be wrong, and they can’t all be right.” Are all religions basically the same? Is there any valid reason that Christians should insist that one must believe in Christ to be saved? Answer

With so many cults and denominations, how can I decide which are true and which are false? Answer

Positive—Growing up in a fundamentalist Christian home, attending two Christian schools and being forbidden from doing the most basic things as say the word “Liar” or “darn” due to the fact that “Jesus doesn’t like those words,” I can say that “Saved!” has a ring of 100% authenticity. For the record, I believe in Christ and I believe in his teachings… but organized Christianity is archaic, outdated and on the way out. Something tells me that Christ is EXTREMELY upset at the things that are carried out in his name and that all of these evangelists who rob their church, ushers who molest their kids and youth pastor who have affairs with the church pianist (and then get her breast implants, no less) will have to answer to the Big Guy when it all comes out in the wash. And that list, by the way, is of events that I have SEEN with my own eyes in the church. Like it or not, “Saved!” has more truth to it than any Christian-themed film in years (minus “The Passion” of course).
My Ratings: [Excellent!/5]
—Jason, age 28
Positive—Just saw this film with my wife tonight and being “saved” myself for the past 22 years (I’m 30), I have to sadly say this film portrayed the Christian community correctly. Yes, there were moments where things were dramatized for entertainment’s sake, but most of it is a direct reflection of how the world sees us. Separatism, “God-talk,” legalism, pride, setting the bar for other thinking we’re doing a good thing for God—this is how we’re viewed. Maybe this film will open our eyes and kick us in the butt to be more like JESUS. He didn’t hang out with the high priests—he spent all his time with the people of the world because that is why he was sent. Anyway, check the film out yourself and lets discuss it!
My Ratings: [Excellent!/4]
—Todd Turner, age 30
Positive—I found this to be an excellent film. Its message is not one of anti-Christianity, but rather one of anti-intolerance. It properly skewers those who disguise their bigotry in false claims of Christian faith. Intolerance is not the heart of Christianity. After all, Christ is an anti-establishment, liberal radical who celebrates the outcasts of society. If you find this film offensive, it’s time for you to re-examine your convictions.
My Ratings: [Excellent!/5]
—Peter, age 38
Positive—Lighten up. It is a wonderful comedy. If we learn to laugh at ourselves, maybe the rest of the world wouldn’t make movies like this.
My Ratings: [Good/5]
—Joanna Mcleod, age 47
Positive—What viewers of the film should keep in mind is that the characters who were considered the outcasts were not rejecting Jesus per se. What they rejected was the community which labeled them and ostracized them based on who they were and what they were going through. Make no mistake about it, Jesus was all about unconditional love. The laws, rules and standards that have been justified and institutionalized in his name came after the fact.
My Ratings: [Somewhat Offensive/3]
—D Skelto, age 37
Positive—I though that this was a great movie. I’m surprised at how negative the CSM review was. I’ve been a christian for as long as I can remember and have come into contact with people who acted exactly like the characters in the movie. I’ve never attended a christian high school, but I know several christian friends who have, and tell me stories about how incredibly judgmental and unforgiving their christian peers can be. These friends most often found themselves pushed towards non christians who showed more compassion than their christian schoolmates.

You should remember that this movie is a comedy so there are many stereotypes used. Stereotypes are at least based on truth, and usually are true. This movie crams all the stereotypes into the few main characters and one christian school. This is what makes it funny. It also should make christians think about how they can sometimes come off to non-believers and other fellow Christians.

The movie could have used at least one Christian character who didn’t come off as a hypocrite AND knows and accurately portrays what the Bible says we should act like. It did come close to this with the principle’s son though.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/4]
—Ben Williams, age 22
Positive—This is a wonderful movie. It is well-written and funny, and very touching. The only reason a Christian would be offended by the content of this movie is that it shows us who many of us really are. If you’re offending by this movie, you’re probably offended by your own behavior. SAVED! has a basically Christian theme. None of the Christian characters step away from their faith over the course of the movie—they grow up, and their faith changes a bit, but never does the movie mock Christianity. It mocks Christians, but not faith and not God.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/4½]
—Donna, age 21
Positive—Just as this movie tells us, we must be open to others. We may not agree with the choices that are made in this film, but we should be able to see what is wrong so that we may improve our lives. Love one another as I have loved you, applies to everyone, including non-Christians and homosexuals. Hate the sin love the sinner. This movie was great, and I recommend it very much!
My Ratings: [Good/5]
—Pablo Sachez-Jorge, age 23
Positive—Despite the highly controversial nature of the film, I think that this film brings a very positive message. First, it reminds us, that we are human, and that, unlike our Lord Jesus, we are apt to fall. Secondly, as an alumna of a religious school (Note: I went from preschool through 12th grade), I feel that Saved addresses something I found a number of times: hypocrites. This film challenges us to look at the way we live our lives. We are Christians, yes, but do we always live as it? Chances are, no. For instance, Mandy Moore’s character, is a devout Christian, yet she uses God as a crutch for her own gain, and is definitely not filled with Christ’s love. This character alone challenges us to live a better life, and find Jesus’ teaching as our primary goal in life.

Jena Malone’s character challenges us not to question the Lord, or to speed things up. God will make us and provide, it is not our job. Her character, while having sinned against the Lord, questions the Lord, and even tests the Lord, reminds us that we are not perfect. While our Lord Jesus can avoid the temptation of Satan, we cannot always do so. This movie challenges us to do so, and to do so for the right reasons.
My Ratings: [Average/4]
—Melissa A, age 22
Positive—I need to disagree with this review. I think this movie could be an excellent tool of discussion for families with anyone over the age of 12. The movie brings up many points of how close minded some Christians have become. One of the two most powerful scenes in the movie is when Hilary Faye throws a Bible at Mary who picks it up and says “This is not a weapon.” Unfortunately, many Christians have turned the Bible into a weapon to cut down others. The other scene is when Dean and his friends from Mercy House come to the prom. While many of you may think I’m crazy for saying this, I believe that Patrick and Mary, not Pastor Skip are correct in this situation when they point out that the Bible is not all black and white, there are gray areas.
My Ratings: [Good/4]
—Amy, age 19
Positive—[Non-Christian] As a former Christian, I understand why so many people are upset about this film. At the same time, I hope that people are willing to watch it and let it be a lesson in caution. Zealots like the characters here do exist, though generally to a lesser degree, and manage to drive many away from Christianity. I once passionately believed in Jesus, but today, because of the hypocrisy of the modern church and its members, I am one person who will never believe the Christian Dogma again. So take this movie with a grain of salt, and try to learn that you won’t reach anyone if you are driving them away with fanaticism.
My Ratings: [3]
—Karen, age 21
Positive—The film certainly captured the Christian Bubble/ Subculture that likes to make it self look as good as possible by sweeping anything deemed bad beneath a rug. After attending a Christian University myself, the movie only echoed what is going on in what seems like every Christian University and many churches. To me, the film didn’t show many stereotypes, and from hearing interviews from the cast, they did their research by attending Christian events targeted to youth. The film to me basically was speaking to the people in the Christian Bubble saying “This is who you are, this is what you do, now… what are you going to do about it?” By the way, how are we as Christians supposed to address teen age mothers and homosexuals? Hand them a Bible, remind them Christianity doesn’t allow that, and tell them to get on their way?
My Ratings: [Good/3]
—Chad, age 20
Neutral
Neutral—I don’t think this is as offensive as this page seems to indicate. I don’t agree with the stars, either, that it’s faith-affirming or pro-Christian. The movie implicitly condemns the hypocrisy of Christian culture, not so much the Christian faith itself, but it also fails to provide any positive examples of truly loving, Bible-believing Christians. It’s not so much what’s in the movie as what’s left out that makes it skewed. We see no positive role models.
My Ratings: [Average/4]
—Alan, age 27
Negative
Negative—I realize this movie was supposed to be a comedy, and the characters portrayed were supposedly exaggerated stereotypes, but NONE of the people in the movie who were followers of Jesus were portrayed in a positive light. In fact, the further away from Jesus the character was, the more sympathetic, without exception.

The fact that we are all sinners in need of a Savior was ignored for the more popular (and easier) tenet that tolerance should be the be all and end all of Christianity. That means that as Christians, we are not allowed to point out that adultery, teen sex, homosexuality, etc., etc. are actually SINS that we need to repent of. Instead “good” Christians accept these behaviors and get on with our lives. This is COMPLETELY against the gospel Christ preached? There was no repentance whatsoever for any of the bad behaviors; only defense for “if it feels good, do it.” God gave us commandments to follow.

Jesus had to DIE for the kind of behavior that is glorified in this film. I know, it’s a comedy… lighten up! I love comedy in films, and I believe I can laugh at myself… but this one was just mean-spirited. It seems to me that everything should be tolerated (in the filmmakers’ minds), except for Christians who actually follow Christ.
My Ratings: [Extremely Offensive/1½]
—Kris, age 43
Negative—Simply Stated: “christianized” (definitely in quotes) POSTMODERISM… I encourage anyone who is not familiar with Postmodernism (one of the most influential philosophies of the current era) to study its impact, as it is one of the largest challenges to honest Bible-based Christianity of our time. I cannot emphasize enough how damaging the so called “positive tenants” of this film are to the Christian moral standpoint.
My Ratings: [Extremely Offensive/2]
—Matt, age 33
Negative—I saw a screening of “Saved!” at a film festival which was attended by Mr. Brian Dannelly, the director of the film. I believe my encounter with him revealed much. I introduced myself as a Christian and began my comments with positive statements about the film, then quietly asked how he would feel about a film which portrayed gays in the same stereotypical way as his film depicts Christians? He never answered the question. He did began to light up a cigarette as he stepped close to my face. I told him I was allergic to cigarette smoke. While telling me his background in Catholic schools and how wrong I was, he continued to light up. I again quietly told him I am allergic. Stepping even closer, he persisted in lighting up. I put my hand over the cigarette and quietly told him “I told you I am allergic.” At this he ran to his friends shouting, “She’s crazy” and labeled me “Aggressive.” Let’s be clear about this. Deliberately, knowingly exposing a person to an allergen is an attack.

This is the way Mr. Dannelly responded to a polite quiet and mildly negative comment on his film by a Christian when there was no camera taping and the only audience was a group of his friends. His powerfully negative view of Christians was as apparent in person as in the film. By the way, he called it a “Christian film” and introduced it with a slam against Jerry Falwell.

The film’s intended audience is young teens. Using all of the typical teen appeal techniques, it is a fairly effective piece of propaganda for the “God is fine as long as s/he has no standards and asks nothing more of me than tolerance of the gay agenda” position. Anyone over say age 13 who is not already biased against Christians should quickly see through the film’s obvious bias.

It is however sad that the film makers themselves could not get past their own prejudice. If they had perhaps they would have been able to make a film which could be a valid cautionary tale for all of us to take care how we treat others. Including those with whom we disagree.
My Ratings: [Very Offensive/2½]
—Shirley, age 50
Negative—I went to see this movie because I love Mandy Moore and Macauly Culkin. I HAD a deep respect for both of them as actors until today. I find it utterly disappointing that they didn’t think more about the feelings of christians they may be offended by this movie. People were so worried about “The passion” offending Jews, but no one cares that this movie offends Christian young people like myself. I have been to many teen Christian conventions, and they are not like this movie AT ALL!

It’s one thing to exaggerate, but this movie made a total mockery of the truth. NONE of the movie was “real” as far as christianity goes. I believe the movie would have been less offensive if it ended saying even christian make mistakes, and God does always love us, but he can’t accept our sin. It has to change, but it takes work. All in all, I wish I could have my money back! I am most upset that the actors are saying it has a positive message and is pro religion! HAHAHAHA! It is completely wrong!

If they knew that Christians are ready and willing to accept ANY person, but not biblically able to believe tolerance is what God wants. Maybe a little more research on christianity should have been done. I feel ashamed for them that they were in this movie, and I hope one day Mandy Moore will realize accepting people is much different than tolerating a black and white sin and expecting God to do the same! THAT IS WRONG!
My Ratings: [Extremely Offensive/3½]
—Heather, age 21
Negative—Portraying young “Christians” as ignorant, brain-washed racists—this movie is another example of Hollywood’s liberal bias against conservative Christianity. If this movie was based instead on Judaism, Islam, or any other religious faith, it would be soundly condemned and stir up civil disobedience in protest. Yet Christ and Christians are considered good and acceptable targets in liberal media today. I recommend that all people—especially Christians—stay away from this blasphemous movie.
My Ratings: [Extremely Offensive/2]
—Jonathan L., age 25
Negative—…It is films like this that keep the teenage suicide rate high, keep teen abortion high,with so many teen resorting to alcoholism and drug abuse. Why do I say this, because you are destroying the one thing in life that will give any human a reason for living and a purpose in life and that is our belief in God. even “the heavens declare the glory of God” this movie is a lie. Why not give them something that will benefit their lives.
My Ratings: [1]
—Linda, age 53
Negative—This is a movie made by art house liberals, for art house liberals. It never really makes an attempt to show true fundamentalists, only hypocrites who have given the word a bad name. I know that homosexuality and adultery are sins and should not be endorsed or encouraged by anyone who believes, no, knows the Bible is true, while at the same time, those who commit such sins should be forgiven, included, and shown the right, Biblical thing to do. A true fundamentalist follows the Bible exactly, but the film makes no effort to explain that. That being said, the film made some interesting points about the “bubble” we tend to put around ourselves, but I believe the Bible, and not pretentious liberalism, contain our solutions.
My Ratings: [Very Offensive/2]
—Daniel, age 26
Negative—In my opinion, this movie makes fun of Christians and portrays Christians incorrectly. I regret that I saw this movie. I do not recommend the movie, especially not to teenagers.
My Ratings: [Very Offensive/1½]
—Ann, age 34
Negative—As an agnostic who went to a Christian school, I can honestly say that it was not at all like this film. People respected me no matter what my beliefs were. I had a better time than at public school. No one gossiped, people respected one another. This movie is nothing but propaganda, and evangelical Christians have every right to be offended. If this movie was about any other group, it would have been called hate speech. My Christian friends poke fun at themselves all the time, everyone should, but this movie is a cinematic with hunt.
My Ratings: [Very Offensive/3½]
—Kain, age 19
Comments from young people
Negative—I regretted seeing this movie after I did. The whole movie is offensive, from the many gay things to the fact that they make fun of Christianity. It was awful.
My Ratings: [Extremely Offensive/2]
—Mark Hayden, age 17
Negative—Yet another judgmental film about “tolerance.” Or if we translate from Hollywood to English, “Accept whatever we like or we will call you racist and ignorant.”
My Ratings: [Very Offensive/1½]
—Trevor, age 15
Neutral—This movie was nothing special in terms of moviemaking quality. I would like to point out, however, that it is unfortunate that Christians are so adverse to criticism (or even good-natured ribbing; Christians had a collective hernia over Dogma)—Jesus was perfect, but his followers are not, and although this movie is from the perspective of an apparent non-Christian, many of the criticisms of modern Christianity are valid, unfortunately. Do not think that a movie containing criticism of our religion is blasphemous simply because we don’t like what it says. That said, I still didn’t really care for the movie, on the grounds of it not being all that funny…
My Ratings: [Average/3]
—Peter Jurmu, age 18
Positive—The movie hit the nail on the head as to what a lot of my christian friends are. It was a fantastic eye opener to how non-Christians see us. I feel that the movie taught me about how I should treat other people and what kind of witness I should be. The message in this movie is clear, don’t be a hypocrite!
My Ratings: [Better than Average/4]
—Michelle Richardson, age 16
Positive—I have met a lot of hypocritical people in my life. Most of them would hate to admit that what they practice is totally different then what they preach. This movie targets that “type” of person exactly. It is not, by any means, mocking Christians, but opening the eyes of those who don’t realize that not everyone is what they seem. Jesus was friends with prostitutes and lepers. Some Christians today have forgot about that- not everyone is perfect. Saved’s message is one that proves that God is a loving, forgiving being. I highly recommend this movie to any Christian up to realizing that their religion may not be completely perfect.
My Ratings: [Average/5]
—Allison, age 17
Positive—I believe in Christ totally, but recently I had trouble with Church denominations and organized religion… the movie is a wake-up call to …extremely prideful hypocrites… I loved the movie and its visual direction is credible and its writing is good.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/3½]
—anonymous, age 14
Negative—Normally, I’d be worried about a film like this, that takes the worst examples of a single people group, and then uses a guilt by association tactic, but judging how poorly it did in its opening weekend (23k), I don’t think we have anything to worry about. Most people seeing this film are just stuck up liberals in art houses, looking for something to do in between visits to Starbucks. Its biggest promoters are lefty media elites, so anyone with common sense will smell the rhetoric, and go see “Troy.”
My Ratings: [Very Offensive/1½]
—Mike, age 16
Negative—Thank God for The Passion of Mel Gibson. I sincerely hope people don’t get brainwashed by this rude film and understand what’s the real meaning of being a Christian.
My Ratings: [ Extremely Offensive/1]
—Ryan Murphy, age 17
Negative—Let’s reinforce negative stereotypes shall we! So all Christians are perverted hypocrites, and the only way to cure it is to accept some backwards liberal ideology. Give me a break, the nicest people I have ever met have been fundamentalists, true fundamentalists who follow the Bible exactly (which excludes racism, and adultery). There is no truth to this movie, only an agenda.
My Ratings: [Very Offensive/1½]
—Daren, age 17
Positive—…As a believer, it really challenged me make sure that I’m portraying Christ’s love to others instead of simply spouting out rules from the Bible. The last line in the movie about figuring out what Jesus would do really got to me, as well as when Hilary Faye realized that she had done wrong and they told her that Jesus still loved her. I thought that it was an excellent film that will help any Christian in their strive to grow in Christ.
My Ratings: [Good/4]
—Dustin Foree, age 16
Neutral—I didn’t think the movie was very offensive but I didn’t think it was funny, either, with the exception of one part. It just wasn’t very funny at all.
My Ratings: [Average/2]
—Cody, age 14
Positive—This is an excellent film in that it challenges all believers to reflect on and think about how they are portraying themselves as a Christian! I would recommend this movie to anyone, believer or not.
My Ratings: [Average/5]
—Chris, age 17

Ted Baehr, founder of the Christian Film and Television Commission ministry, says that the new Hollywood movie SAVED! is a sad, bigoted, anti-Christian movie that mocks the Christian faith.

“SAVED! is a hateful, politically correct movie,” Dr. Baehr declared. “It is being heavily marketed to the community it mocks to lead Christian youth astray and make them resent their own faith.”

“The one character who tries to preach the Gospel in the movie,” he noted, “is actually the villain. The heroine Mary, played by Jena Malone, has a vision that Jesus tells her to fornicate with the school hunk in order to save him from homosexuality.”

“At the end, Mary learns that her only true friends are Cassandra, a irreverent Jewish girl who claims to have been a stripper, and the villain’s brother, who denies being a Christian and lusts after the stripper.”

Dr. Baehr adds, “Cassandra is the real heroine who turns Mary away from the uptight Christian students who believe in faith, values, and the power of prayer. Imagine if this movie were set in an Orthodox Jewish school with faithful Jewish children cast as the villains and a Christian girl shows how legalistic the Jewish girls are. Or, what if it were set in an Islamic school with faithful Muslims cast as the villains and a Christian or Jewish Girl exposes how legalistic the Muslims are? The outcry in the press would be tremendous! Not to mention the righteous outcry from Jews or Muslims!

“Looking at it from the point of view of other faiths,” Dr. Baehr continued, “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!”

“This is abhorrent and people of faith must be forewarned,” Dr. Baehr concluded.
© 2004 Assist News Service

An interview with the producers and cast

Producers Sandy Stern and Michael Stipe were sent the script for “Saved!” in 1999 after the success of “Being John Malkovich” prompted a flood of scripts to their company, Single Cell Pictures. Stern said,

“When I read “Saved!”, it was so of the moment, so topical, had something to say, and it was funny. It had all the hallmarks of a traditional high school movie, but spun in an entirely unique way.”

Producer Stipe agreed:

“I thought it was one of the funnier and more absolutely audacious, subversive scripts I had seen in some time,” he says. “I just fell in love with the characters and the story immediately.”

Stern admits that the “Saved!” storyline also held a particular personal appeal.

“There has always been a part of me that’s an arrested adolescent,” he says. “High school is a time we all look back on—every single one of us—and for so many of us, those were some of the worst years of our lives. 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.”

Writer/director Brian Dannelly (who co-wrote the script with Michael Urban while they were enrolled at the American Film Institute) says “Saved!” came about as a result of his own diverse background.

“As a kid I went to Catholic elementary school, Christian high school, and a Jewish summer camp,” he says. “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. I wanted to write a movie that was grounded with the iconography of a mainstream teen movie yet incorporated concepts and ideas you would never see in those kinds of movies—an accessible film with an independent spirit.”

FAQ: The director/writer of “SAVED!” says: “They can’t all be wrong, and they can’t all be right.” Are all religions basically the same? Answer

Recalling the strict rules of his school years, Dannelly says,

“In my high school, we weren’t allowed to dance,” he says. “Everybody had to be at least 6 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 Urban had similar experiences with his “fundamentalist” upbringing.

“I grew up in a traditional Baptist home in the South,” he says. “Where I went to college in Tallahassee, Florida, I regularly saw people who lived in this metaphysical world with punishments 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.”

To get into their characters, prior to the beginning of principal photography, Dannelly and a number of the principal cast members were taken to a “Salvation Rally” in Anaheim Stadium, California. In British Columbia the whole cast also attended another teen Christian rally as part of their research.

“I wanted to make sure the cast understood the dynamics of what the Christian community fondly calls ‘Jesus freaks’.”

Controversy

According to the producers, the script’s look at “fundamentalist” Christianity eventually caused the production to lose several locations during production—and a rock band. The owner of the home that was to serve as Mary’s house “decided at the last minute there would be no room at the inn” after hearing about the comedic aspects of the story. As a Christian, he claimed it would be inappropriate. Similarly, a Lutheran church originally slated as a location “backed out” of the deal after perusing the script. A United church, however, happily offered to host the production. Also, a well-known Christian rock band had agreed to perform in the film.

“The script had been approved by the band members and their management, but at the eleventh hour the band’s label pulled the plug, fearful Christian fans might be offended.”

In discussing the potential controversy raised by “Saved!”’s subject matter, the cast and filmmakers claim that…

“…the main message of the film is one of love, one of inclusion and acceptance of all religions and beliefs.”

“The film does not criticize Christians, religion, or faith. The film speaks out against those who are intolerant and their inability to open their hearts and minds to others’ way of thinking - or at least their inability to realize everyone on earth will never believe in exactly the same things.”

FAQ: “Saved!” promotes the new definition of “TOLERANCE” of all beliefs. This is politically correct, but does it hold danger for followers of Christ? Is love the same thing as tolerance? Answer

Jena Malone says there will very likely be some debate about “Saved!”’s subject matter, but feels the film actually promotes religion, when it’s practiced with tolerance.

“The film is absolutely pro-faith,” she says. “It’s about wanting to believe in something and the idea that belief and love can be in many different forms. It’s not a matter of grouping it into clean neat piles, but really understanding the chaos, understanding the debris on the side and knowing it’s all part of the same thing.”

FAQ: Are all religions really basically the same, as the director and cast suggest? Answer

Eva Amurri

Co-star Eva Amurri feels that religion needs to be adapted to modern life and needs.

“I think no matter what religion you are, you have to learn to adapt to the world today,” she says. “It’s about how you take these morals imposed on you by certain religions and transpose that onto what you’re experiencing in everyday life.”

FAQ: Does Christianity need to develop a NEW gospel for today’s world? Answer

Copyright, United Artists
Mandy Moore as Hilary Faye

Mandy Moore says she believes the film is sending out “a very positive message.” “Obviously some things are exaggerated for comedic effect,” she says, “but the message of this film is not about mocking Christians. It isn’t anti-anything at all. It is about discovering who you are and what you believe in. It’s about tolerance, acceptance and diversity.

“I’m really happy to be part of a film that’s going to make people think on so many different levels,” Moore continues. “I think it’s pretty inspirational to see this character, a Christian who tests her faith and finally decides to come back to it, because it’s what she believes in. But Hilary Faye also shows how intense beliefs can become really extreme, how you can find yourself becoming a really judgmental and cold person because of it. I think “Saved!” shows both the good and bad aspects of having faith.”

Producer Stern says, “We sent her the script, and seven days later she committed to the movie. I have never had an actor come onto a project so easily and joyously as Mandy. It was incredible.” Moore reports that when she read the script “I was just on the floor in hysterics laughing—and I wanted to be a part of it.”

Macaulay Culkin

Macaulay Culkin reports, “I knew coming into this that some people might not like it, but I didn’t make the film to be controversial. I think we’re making a wonderful film with a very important message. Just because it takes place in a Christian high school and concerns Christianity, some might not agree with it for one reason or another. But I agree with what the film says, so I hope people just walk in with an open mind and take it for what it is.”

“Before you make up your mind how you feel about something, you should be able to challenge it—religion, politics, or whatever,” says Heather Matarazzo. “When speaking about something, it shouldn’t just be empty words with feeling behind them. It should be educated words with feeling behind them. That is what we’re trying to convey. I hope everyone likes it, including Christians.”

Producer and REM singer Michael Stipe, who openly describes himself as a “queer artist” (“Time”, 2001), is adamant about the film’s positive stance on religion.

“I don’t think this film in any way mocks Christianity,” he says. “I come from a very religious family, and I would not insult them or the people I grew up with by working so hard on something I thought was insulting. This film presents things the way they really are. Teenage girls get pregnant, people figure out they’re gay, and sometimes those things happen in places where they are least expected.”

“My personal belief is that Christianity and spirituality in general need a little bit of a push into the 21st century, particularly from the point of view of a teenager,” he continues. “That is what this movie captures in such a brilliant way. It is subversive, but it is sweetly subversive. I don’t think we are stepping on anyone’s toes.”

“I think anyone who has been an outsider will relate to the film,” says Dannelly. “Anyone who has ever had their faith tested will relate to this film. Anyone who has ever been in high school will relate to this film. And I would like to think our film is slightly more intelligent than your standard teen movie. I think people will appreciate it. “People who are secure in their faith aren’t going to be worried about “Saved!” one bit. It’s like “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,”” he continues. “I don’t think Greek people were up in arms because it dealt with Greek stereotypes. People who are strong in their faith will not be afraid of this movie.”

About the film’s design

One of the most notable creations made for the film is the giant 25-foot tall billboard of Jesus wearing running shoes looming over the parking lot outside the school—it’s a billboard being painted in the film’s opening by “Christian Jewels” Jena Malone and Mandy Moore. Following Dannelly’s idea of using contemporary artwork influenced by Nike ads, Devenyi says they decided to go for something “cool that kids could identify with. We made a Jesus wearing running shoes, drawn in a fashion familiar to anyone who picks up a teen magazine today.”

Production designer Devenyi explains how color was used to introduce some of the story’s standout characters.

“We introduced color during some of the flashbacks of Mary’s earlier life,” he says. “We also introduced color by means of Eva Amurri’s character, Cassandra, the girl who drives a wild purple car and overturns the apple cart of the Christian structure in which she’s trapped. The color red is also kept out of the picture until Mary shows up wearing a red dress at the prom.”

The modern high school, which provides the focal point for much of the film’s action, was chosen for its unusual design as well as its proliferation of windows and skylights. The filmmakers found the Clayton Heights Secondary School in the suburb of South Surrey to have exactly the look needed for the film’s American Eagle Christian High.

“We wanted a school that was very atypical, that had never been seen on film before,” adds Devenyi. “The design for this school was very cubist, almost like a German Expressionist film set, with a lot of angles, strange lines, and broken up imagery. It gave us many great angles to shoot from inherent in the architecture. Ultimately, it also gave us a nice representation of the fractured look we wanted as the Christian world breaks down for the characters.”

About the filmmakers

BRIAN DANNELLY (Director/Writer) was born in Wurtzburg, Germany. At age 11 his family relocated to a suburb of Baltimore, Maryland. After Catholic elementary school, Jewish summer camp, and Baptist high school, Dannelly eventually graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of Maryland Baltimore County (Visual Arts), then became a directing fellow at the American Film Institute, graduating from their directing program in 1999. Dannelly met writing partner Michael Urban at AFI and they wrote “Saved!”, Dannelly’s first feature film.

MICHAEL STIPE (Producer) is the singer/songwriter of the band R.E.M. (formed 1979), and has two film production companies: Single Cell Pictures, which he started in 1995 with Sandy Stern, and his other production company, C-Hundred Film Corp, formed in 1987. Stipe’s production credits include “Being John Malkovich,” “American Movie,” “Velvet Goldmine,” “Spring Forward,” “Girls Town,” “Our Song,” and “Stranger Inside.”

SANDY STERN (Producer), whose first feature was the teen film “Pump Up the Volume,” has produced many other films for both film and television. He has also produced “Red Hot” for HBO, “Equinox,” and “Freak City” for Showtime. Stern partnered with Michael Stipe in 1995 and their productions together include “Being John Malkovich,” “Velvet Goldmine,” and “Thirteen Conversations About One Thing.”