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:: Saved

Watching over-the-top US comedy Saved is like stumbling into an alternate universe as perturbing, in its own way, as Richard Kelly’s cult hit Donnie Darko. At American Eagle Christian High School, where Christian is all there is, it’s the zealots who top the teen totem pole. Among them is Mary (Jena Malone) who’s headed for a fabulous senior year with her best friend and leader of the Christian Jewels, Hilary-Faye (Mandy Moore), a mulleted gun-toting Barbie drowning in blue eye shadow. But when Mary falls pregnant to her gay boyfriend Dean (Chad Faust) after surrendering her virginity to save him in the belief it will be miraculously restored, she’s an outcast. While Chad’s sent off to Mercy House, Mary befriends the ‘freaks’: Hilary-Faye’s wheelchair-bound brother (Macaulay Culkin) and his troublemaker girlfriend Cassandra (Eva Amurri), the only Jewish girl in school. Meanwhile, Mary’s Christian Interior Decorator of the Year mum (Mary-Louise Parker) begins a tentative romance with charismatic school principal Pastor Skip (Martin Donovan).

Director Brian Dannelly, who co-wrote the script with Michael Urban, wanted to satirise the intensity of teen Christian worship, where fainting at prayer meetings is not uncommon. Performances are good across the board, but Mandy Moore almost steals the film with her outrageous Hilary-Faye.

Saved is an enjoyable teen comedy that has some important subtexts: it argues for tolerance of diversity, and the importance of looking beneath the superficial when choosing friends. It embraces families that differ from the traditional nuclear model and demonstrates why sex education is needed. But what’s best about the film is that the characters don’t abandon their faith, simply incorporate it into a more tolerant worldview. Whether you’re a Christian, atheist or something different, Saved will gently amuse without overwhelming you with political correctness.