Christianity may possibly frequently adjust with the times to appeal to the youth of their flock, but its effort toward a “hip” and “cool” makeover in the late-’90s and early 2000s struck a mainstream chord, marking the rise of Christian alt-rock, WWJD bracelets and brand-parody shirts, and huge worship conferences. Even though writer/director Brian Dannelly drew from his own experiences with Christian schooling and subculture during his youth while writing Saved!, a teen-comedy powered by religious satire, it really is the timing of its release about the period of this “emerging church” that herded it into a cult-classic niche. Satirizing religion — specifically when involving teenagers — can be difficult, but Dannelly know how to cross essential lines that ask queries and push buttons with no attacking the whole institution, resulting in a sharply funny depiction of teens navigating the complexities of morals, zealotry, and figuring out what their beliefs are in the procedure.
Mary Cummings (Jena Malone), a senior at American Eagle Christian High College, has a lot going for her. Along with graduating quickly, she’s also a member of a pop-music singing group that started at her college, the Christian Jewels, which is led by her wildly popular greatest friend, Hilary Faye (Mandy Moore). Mary also has a great Christian boyfriend, Dean (Chad Faust), whom she can see spending her life with. The couple are confronted with a challenge, nonetheless, when Dean tells Mary that he may possibly be gay, clearly a no-no when it comes to their faith. To aid save the partnership and below the pretense that her actions will lead Dean astray from even worse sin, Mary decides to take their connection to yet another level. In the procedure, Mary ends up pregnant, leaving her to hide the secret from her secular friends as she turns to the school’s pariahs — like Hilary Faye’s handicapped brother, Roland (Macaulay Culkin), and the school’s wild-child “witch”, Cassandra (Eva Amurri) — for comfort and aid with the situation, while also ducking the untimely flirtations from a ministry skateboarder, Patrick (Patrick Fugit).
Writer/director Brian Dannelly and co-writer Michael Urban channel lengthy-term perceptions of Christian schools and this turn-of-the-century “revamp” movement of Christianity into the halls of American Eagle Christian Higher School, a place exactly where it is challenging to inform who runs the location: the teachers, or the hero-worshipped Hilary Faye and her model posse of “Christian Jewels”. Mandy Moore’s overly cheerful charisma plays up the foundation of her character’s higher-energy faith into each a tool for her recognition and a weapon against those who clash with her and her beliefs, shaping Hilary into a exclusive type of villain who stands toe-to-toe with the likes of Regina George in Imply Girls or Heather Duke in Heathers. From hands-in-the-air concerts with the Christian Jewels and the slang-riddled preaching from the school’s dean to soul-saving prayer “interventions”, Dannelly nails down a kind of moral battleground complete of charismatic worship that won’t stand for deviations from its — or Hilary’s — way of considering, a location of insistent enjoy hiding its underlying intolerance.
Of course, what is a better way of using this buttoned-up atmosphere than to throw a bunch of challenges at its status quo? There is a degree of comfort behind the moral “hiccups” that Saved! introduces in its religious takedown, where teen pregnancy, homosexuality, and demonized non-believers all erupt at the identical time around meek senior Mary, played with convincing naivete and simmering ferocity by Jena Malone. Yet, the personal experiences and analysis channeled into their stories neatly weave with each other with the setup orchestrated by director Dannelly, striking a balance between elevated reality and outright parody that carries adequate authenticity to take seriously. Our playfully-named heroine, Mary, goes down a path that leads her by way of conflicts of morality and the integrity of her religion, and the broadening of her horizons along the way telegraphs a strong message about figuring out what elements of larger-power belief — if any — make sense to distinct individuals.
Backed by a soundtrack featuring tunes recorded by Mandy Moore, recognizable classic Christian songs like Jesus Christ Superstar, and seasonal music to mark the passing of time, Saved! follows the calculated moral battle that Hilary Faye wages against the “pariahs” of American Eagle more than the schoolyear. Even though Mary struggles with how to manage and cover up her pregnancy scenario from, nicely, every person, powerful humor forms around exorcisms, converting non-believers, and the dirty little secrets men and women keep about themselves. Punchlines are rarely overt, though the funniest line in the film gets tossed out in the film’s trailer. Alternatively, the comedic timing and chemistry within the rising-star cast elevates the surprisingly witty and cautiously subversive jabs in the writing — particularly through Mandy Moore’s deadpan villainy as Hilary and Eva Amurri’s brazen rebelliousness as Cassandra — easing up on its satirical edge with a trustworthy amount of truthful teen-oriented drama and romantic diversions.
Luckily, Saved! doesn’t preach about the touchy topic of the Christian faith among higher-schoolers, nor does it rely on employing religion itself as the butt of simple or cruel jokes … even although it probably could’ve held onto more cynicism whilst delivering the culmination of Mary’s tribulations by means of intolerance. Amongst the budding relationships — occasionally playing like relics of late-’90s sappy sitcom Tv — and the repartee between zealous believers and their opposing outsiders, a versatile tone builds between these fleshed-out caricatures and stereotypes that writer/director Dannelly brings with each other. This relatively dark comedy does concentrate on a clear point: there is an unquestionable commentary going on here about the stringent and sometimes hypocritical grasp individuals have on morals, forgiveness, and the Word of God. Saved! largely performs simply because it understands how to step over these bounds for the sake of its essential satire, though, whilst also staying pleasantly accessible as it appeals to a broader, receptive audience with the actual spirit of its message.
Video and Audio:
For a film that is just more than a decade old and shot on 35mm film, I’d anticipate Saved! to appear with a bit much more clarity and cleanliness than the 1.85:1-framed, 1080p AVC transfer presented right here by Olive Films. Comparing the Blu-ray to MGM’s DVD from 2004 reveals an overwhelming amount of similarities, each very good and negative, in terms of the colour palette and somewhat flat rendering of detail to the film grain and print damage/speckles present inside. Improvements in the high-definition transfer are incremental, at greatest, and are most notable in the stability and fidelity of the mostly unchanged color palette. The added depth achieved by the uptick in resolution gives close-ups a small far more authenticity, as does the extra redness in skin tones. Fine information see marginal improvement when you scrutinize the tiles in the pool and the texture of pavement, strands of hair and the weave of textiles, and the contours surrounding the opening title text. Apart from that, nonetheless, there is not a complete lot of distinction in between the upconverted DVD and this Blu-ray transfer, but that is not necessarily a bad issue.
Saved! does sound a bit better, although, improving upon the comparatively narrow however appropriate Dolby Digital track from the DVD with a fuller, crisper DTS-HD Master Audio presentation. Sound effects extend themselves much more naturally across the front channels alternatively of staying rigidly attached to the center channel, even though also seeing improvements in heft by means of the sound of a head bonk against a metal pipe, the screeching of tires, the revving of an engine and the ping of a baking timer. Music also enjoys a notable enhance in energy and naturalness. There are bits and pieces of atmosphere to be heard in the surround design, from outdoor crickets to the chatter of crowds, which make an effort to reach the side channels and the rears. Dialogue ends up sound about on par with the standard-definition release, but once again that is a testament to the top quality of the old presentation, as every inflection, yell, and intentional muted line are discernible … if a tad much more muffled in a spot or two. English subtitles are accessible.
Unsurprisingly, the extras for Saved! are restricted to those available on MGM’s moderately well-stacked presentation. Front and center, there are two Audio Commentaries: the initial attributes Writer/Director Brian Dannelly, writer Micheal Urban, and Producer Sandy Stern, which follows a customary but insightful rhythm as they discuss the script’s intentions, shooting days and areas, and coping with the film’s early controversies and the second features actresses Mandy Moore and Jena Malone, which ends up becoming far more engaged and “soul-browsing” than one may count on when it comes to the film’s shooting scenarios and underlying themes. There’s significantly less overlap than 1 may possibly anticipate amongst the two tracks, producing them both worth a listen for a fans of the film.
Along with a massive batch of Deleted Scenes (17:35, HD), painfully stretched out and low-high quality regardless of becoming in high-def, and a Blooper Reel (two:37, HD), Saved! comes with a pair of short featurettes. Heaven Aid Us (four:15, HD) cobbles with each other interviews with the cast at the time with generous clips from the film, amount to a really traditional press-kit featurette. The other, Saved! Revelations (two:30, 16×9 HD), basically boils down to yet another stretch of “deleted” material, answering a couple of curiosities behind the film, such as what Hilary Faye stated underneath some microphone. Olive Films have also integrated a Theatrical Trailer (two:03, 16×9 HD).
Saved! is the kind of excellent-hearted satire that’s powered by aggravation alternatively of anger, a single that matches its sharp pokes at the hypocrisy of religion and the stringent atmosphere of Christian schools with optimistic drama built about outcasts, loved ones, and somewhat dated romantic storytelling. It is rebellious with out being aggressive, and the well-chosen cast meshes fairly nicely with a script filled with lingering stereotypes, turn-of-the-century modernization of Christianity, and curious actual-world stories involving the intolerance of faith. Could it have gone additional with its criticism? Sure, but that isn’t its style, ultimately playing it safe adequate with teen pregnancy, homosexuality, and hypocrisy to make the knowledge much more rewarding for a selection of audience members … believers, cynics, and these in among. Olive Films’ Blu-ray doesn’t take a large leap onto Blu-ray, sporting an incrementally-far better audiovisual presentation and no new extras, but it is certainly worthwhile sufficient for a powerful Recommendation.
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