“I know this is wrong, but do you ever wonder if she just made the whole thing up? I mean, it’s a pretty good one. It’s not like anyone can ever use virgin birth as an excuse again. I don’t really think she made it up, but I can understand why a girl would.”

A teenager at a Christian school gets pregnant after sleeping with her boyfriend to make sure he isn’t gay. And the lives of everyone in her circle of friends gets turned upside down.

Saved! (2004)
Directed by Brian Dannelly
Written by Brian Dannelly and Michael Urban

I imagine that if you’re a religious person, you probably hate a movie like this one. SAVED! highlights every bad stereotype about Christians – especially intolerance and vanity – and plays the devout characters as bumbling ne’er-do-wells, too blinded by what they think is good to realize just how bad they’re acting.

Having gone to a Catholic school for nine years – from Kindergarten through 8th grade – I gotta say, the portrayal isn’t that far off. The first couple of times I watched this movie, not long after it was released on DVD, I’ll admit to suffering from some flashbacks. I’m pretty grateful that I ended up going to a public high school and didn’t have to spend my formative teen years with anyone like those who were portrayed here.

It is a fun movie, though, as Jena Malone gets her first starring role as Mary, a born-again Christian, part of the clique that runs the school, who decides to sacrifice her virginity in order to ensure that her boyfriend isn’t gay. It doesn’t really work out for her – in a lot of ways. Dean, the boyfriend, is gay and his parents send him away for some conversion therapy. And Mary ends up pregnant. Malone is good in the role, but the crazy characters that surround her are the actual highlights of the film.

Mandy Moore is just fantastic as Hillary Faye, the leader of the Christian Jewels who thinks she’s a good Christian girl and doesn’t understand why those she judges as sinners don’t get the proper punishment. Hillary Faye starts out as someone who Mary turns to for advice on the whole gay boyfriend thing, but when the situation turns sideways and Mary ends up pregnant, Hillary Faye is less than understanding. When Mary challenges her, Hillary Faye casts her out, leading Mary directly into the graces of people that the Christian Jewels leader pities and looks down on.

Hillary Faye’s descent into sin and possible madness is great, and Moore clearly has fun with it throughout the film.

Hillary Faye’s brother, Roland, is portrayed by HOME ALONE star Macaulay Culkin, in the second film of his comeback after taking a decade off from making films. Roland is in a wheelchair, and relies on Hillary Faye to drive him around pretty much everywhere. While she does whatever she can for her disabled brother, Hillary Faye clearly loathes having to be “a good Christian” and help Roland out. Her brother, for his part, seems equally disdainful of Hillary Faye.

When he connects with Cassandra (Eva Amurri), a Jewish teen who had been kicked out of her other school, Roland finally finds someone who enjoys his company and sees past the wheelchair. When Hillary Faye excommunicates Mary from her clique for being a fornicator and getting impregnated by “a gay,” Cassandra and Roland take Mary in and help her through the final months of her pregnancy.

I had no idea Amurri was Susan Sarandon’s daughter, though after learning that I have no idea how I didn’t make the connection, because she looks so much like her mother in this movie. Her pairing with Culkin here is perfect, as the two of them play off each other well.

As with most comedies about high school, the movie climaxes at the prom, which Cassandra and Roland bring Mary to, along with her date, pastor’s son Patrick (Patrick Fugit). Their arrival, along with a runaway gang of teens from the conversion therapy home, is too much for Hillary Faye to take, and she crashes her minivan into the giant Jesus sign as Mary goes into labor. Everyone learns their lessons (kind of) and they all live happily ever after.

Predictable – or at least trite – ending aside, the fun is in the journey to the finale. SAVED! was released about six weeks after MEAN GIRLS, starring Lindsay Lohan, another teen comedy taking on themes of feeling out of place. MEAN GIRLS is probably the more popular – at least the more well known – film, but I think I prefer SAVED! to the Lohan vehicle. It’s probably because of my years in a Catholic school, though.