Movie Reviews
1:15 pm
Fri June 11, 2004

Saved!

Satirizing fundamentalism is a dicey business.

With as many neocons and Christians as are dominating the social and political scene today, satirizing fundamentalism is a dicey business. But satire is an unsure science anyway, often ending like the recent "Lost Skeleton of Cadavra" in the trash-heap of failed parodies. "Saved" has saved those of us who embrace the art of lampooning serious fanaticism: Here is an amusing send-up of rabid teenage Christians at "The American Eagle Christian High School," who brook no opposition when it comes to proselytizing for Jesus.

But then even the adults are fanatic, like Pastor Skip, who intones at the school assembly, "Lord Jesus is in the house! Who's down with the G-O-D?" Hilary Faye (Mandy Moore) is the leader of the right. Mary (Jena Malone) is the naive product of that energy as she gives up her virginity to save her boyfriend from the gay fate he recently admitted. From Mary's "virgin birth" (She exclaimed, "Thank you, Jesus" after the blessed insemination) comes a baby girl and a true rebirth into sanity and normality.

Along the road to redemption, writer/director Brian Dannelly makes a few missteps, like not exploring the abortion option, in his own zeal to crucify the fundamentalists. He does, however, make his point when ex-virgin Mary exclaims, "Why would God make us so different if he wanted us to be the same?" This diversity argument resonates here not just in the mean girls (Accept Jesus or else!) motif, but also in featuring Roland (Macaulay Culkin), the wheel-chaired brother who is a nonbeliever and boyfriend of the school's outrageous rebel.

The mean-spirited ending is foreshadowed in the scene at the "Emmanuel Shooting Range: An Eye for an Eye," where Hilary dispatches the genital region of a target while she shouts her determination to be a virgin until marriage. Although the ending borders on a "Carrie" debacle and thereby misses any chance to be evenhanded, the rest of the film serves as a cautionary tale about living Christ's "Sermon on the Mount" rather than legislating it.

Eliot warned in "The Rock," "And have done with these abominations, the turpitudes of the Christians."