"Good girl" Mary and her popular, influential best friend, Hilary Faye, are starting their senior year at the top of the social structure at American Christian High School. But when Mary finds out she's pregnant, Hilary Faye and her devoted "disciples" turn against Mary and the school labels her an outcast.

(2004) Film Review

This page was created on March 31, 2004
This page was last updated on June 5, 2004

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Directed by Brian Dannelly
Written by Brian Dannelly & Michael Urban

Steven Gagnon ... co-executive producer
Michael Ohoven ... producer
David Prybil ... co-executive producer
David Reed Prybil ... co-executive producer
Kerry Rock ... co-executive producer
Cal Shumiatcher ... line producer
Sandy Stern ... producer
Michael Stipe ... producer
William Vince ... producer

Cast - in credits order
Jena Malone ... Mary
Mandy Moore ... Hilary Faye
Macaulay Culkin ... Roland
Patrick Fugit ... Patrick
Heather Matarazzo
Martin Donovan ... Pastor Skip
Mary-Louise Parker
Eva Amurri ... Cassandra
Chad Faust ... Dean
Chris Evans

Original Music by Christophe Beck
Cinematographers by Bobby Bukowski
Edited by Pamela Martin

MPAA: Rated PG-13 for strong thematic issues involving teens - sexual content, pregnancy, smoking and language.
Runtime: USA:92 min

For rating reasons, go to FILMRATINGS.COM, and MPAA.ORG.
Parents, please refer to PARENTALGUIDE.ORG

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"Good girl" Mary (Malone) and her popular, influential best friend, Hilary Faye (Moore), are starting their senior year at the top of the social structure at American Christian High School. But when Mary finds out she's pregnant, Hilary Faye and her devoted "disciples" turn against Mary and the school labels her an outcast. Her senior year quickly turns into a nightmare. It's as an outcast, however, that she finds true friends -- other students the school doesn't quite know what to do with. In this sweetly subversive comedy, a group of strangers band together to navigate the treacherous halls and make it to graduation, ultimately learning more about themselves and finding out what it truly means to be Saved!.

A Round Table Discussion of Saved!
From Hollywood Jesus Reviewers

Here is an insightful Inside Look at a Conversation Between Reviewers at HJ.com. Enjoy!
--David Bruce

Mike Furches mike@furches.org: Well, “as for me and my house,” I hadn't planned on seeing the movie -- but we will now! In all seriousness, I will probably think about the movie in the same way that the other reviewer* does. Don’t know though. I do know that we live in a society where it is “cool” in many ways to mock Christians and Jesus. Maybe I should say to mock what people perceive as being “Christians” and Jesus. Unfortunately, I sometimes wonder what kind of job other Christians -- and certainly I, myself, -- have done at being an adequate reflection of Jesus and showing His love towards others.

Many who call themselves Christians are responsible for oftentimes acting just like the people in Saved! who call themselves Christians.

Greg Wright hjpastorgreg@hotmail.com: Now, I haven't seen the movie, but here's my responses to some of the critic's observations: 

Mountain Christian High School, where Jesus' name is spouted as if He's a popular soft drink

Now, things may have changed in the 25 years since I was in high school, but that sounds like an apt description of the Christian schools of my day...

"Getting saved" in Saved! is a flip decision that a three-year-old who knows no better may make.

The last I checked, that's an accusation that various Christian sects toss around at each other all the time. Why should we be surprised to have the very same charge leveled at us in a satire?

True repentance for sin, freedom from its bonds, and laying down one's life for your friends are none to be seen here.

And little enough to be seen in real life. I know I haven't laid down my life for anyone lately. You guys?

one could easily get the idea that calling yourself an evangelical Christian puts you in the categories of judgmental, rude, violent, and stupid.

It often does. Of course, that's because we're human, not because we're Christian. But that doesn't make the charge any less valid.

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.

Anyone else besides me remember doing pretty much the same thing? I remember the first time I said, “My God!” while staging battles with G.I. Joes. I expected a thunderbolt from heaven. When it didn’t come, I started secretly reveling in “taking God’s name in vain.” And I can laugh about that now that I know how much bigger God is than my childish defiance.

Christians are depicted as notorious gossips.

As a former church elder, I can vouch for the veracity of this charge.

Pastor Skip begins an affair with Mary's mother, who also professes to be a believer.

I can provide first-hand accounts of plenty of church-wrecking affairs by pastors, if anyone fails to come up with some of their own. I mean, really, this is no secret, is it?

Christians, especially leaders, are depicted as liars, adulterers, and hypocrites.

We're certainly not exempt from those failings.

Christians are portrayed as violent and devious.

Well, I'm pretty much sure that the Iraqis -- and the Muslim world in general -- are convinced of that.

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.

According to my experience, that describes the attitude of most people in American churches. Hasn’t anyone been paying attention to what’s been going on with controversies in the Anglican, Methodist and Presbyterian churches? They’re certainly not alone.

there has been a new wave of worldwide interest in Christ because of Mel Gibson's The Passion... Saved! feels like a backlash

I have a different theory, one that I’ll be talking about at the North American Christian Convention this July: that Christians have for many years now been successful in doing what David Bruce and others advocate -- finally coming out of the churches and integrating themselves into our culture, sitting at the same table with prostitutes and tax collectors, as it were. So, as some of the old stereotypes (which Saved! portrays) begin to collapse, the spiritual battle will begin to escalate.

My attitude about Saved! is: Why should we be surprised when satires like this -- based on very justified stereotypes -- come along? And why get worked up about it? The world will know we are Christ’s disciples by our love, not by nice, clean little movies that depict Christian high schoolers and teachers like the plastic little saints that we know they’re not. In my book, the church has got a lot more to account for than films like Saved! Can’t we save our harshest judgment for ourselves? God knows we deserve it.

Benn Becker: AMEN Greg! I think it’s time we all get honest and real rather than create some fake plastic image ... the rest of the world does that enough that I think people appreciate honesty and genuineness. We’re never going to make the world perfect!
Lyn Mellone: Greg, you’ve hit some pertinent nails right on the head, and it's painful to have to face the truth. But then, I don't think that any of us would want to see a “nice clean little movie that depicts Christian high schoolers and teachers like plastic saints”?

For Saved!, I will be looking forward to reading the kind of reviews that are posted here at HJ, where the focus is on “whatsoever things are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, and of good report.” Reviews that find points with which to establish dialogue with those who do not yet know our Jesus.

[Note that true is not necessarily “nice” and pleasant.]

Chris Utley: I tell you, when I saw the trailer, my wife and I were laughing out loud and giving each other high fives! Why? Because in one little 3-minute movie trailer, we could relate to every situation presented!

With the exception of a few (very few) Christians that I know, here are three golden truths:

1. The world is dying and headed for hell.
2. A lot of Christians don’t give a darn about that.
3. Those same Christians are more offended by my second statement than the first!

Christian Spotlight may see “mockery.” I see the kind of holier-than-thou evangelical Christians that some people now label as “holy rollers.” My wife says “holy rollers” are Christians who are “so heavenly minded that they're no earthly good!” I loathe and detest that “holy roller” attitude. No wonder sin has gotten into the Church! We say we love the Lord and want to be used by Him, but when a brother or sister is caught by sin, or even just tempted, we don’t offer compassion or understanding, and we don’t show any grace. We do exactly what’s in that film: toss a Bible upside their heads and condemn them. We call it “taking a stand for Holiness!” But instead, we’re feeding them straight into the arms of Satan.

Mike Furches mike@furches.org: I get many emails regarding reviews. Today I had one regarding the review of Dawn of the Dead from Christians who blast me regarding my desire to see a movie like this.

By the way David, it makes me want to say that this is one more reason to make sure that this review is on the front page. It may be time to keep the holier-than-thou folks ticked off. But then again, that is just me. If it is reaching folks, great. I also realize on this one that I have some attitude things to work out myself. To love like Jesus still takes work from even me, and man how I know that!

One question today from the guy though,

"Don't the Holy Spirit ever convict you about seeing trash like this."

My response, which took 2 hours, reminded him of Romans 14. I spoke of the fact that Christ came to seek and save the lost, yet so many Christians take a “screw you” (although I didn’t use those exact words) attitude and couldn't care less about finding ways of sharing the Gospel with the millions who choose to see horror films or any other genre. Don’t get me wrong, as you can see from my review of Troy it is okay to not like a movie. But it is high time that we learn to find value in showing others the love of Jesus, at all costs.

Greg, I really appreciate you brother. Your words and comments are inspirational and make me say, “Yay! Thank you, Jesus -- someone else gets it.” If you were here, I would hang my head on your shoulder because you have reminded me that neither I, nor the others who love the ministry behind Hollywood Jesus, are alone.

I have to say I think it’s a shame that it takes “non-Christian” movie companies to see the value in something like this. While the purpose may be only profits, I frankly don’t care, if it provides the opportunity to get the message of Jesus into the hands of those who don’t know. Flannery O’Conner, and others, for years understood this approach, but for some reason we have forgotten it when it comes to putting it into practice. It is a shame that Christian companies have not seen the value in reaching people by whatever means necessary, as opposed to living in their own little bubbles.

I also will say this: the more we stand up for Christ, and this position, the more ridicule and negative attitudes we will see from “the church.” Expect it. It happened to Jesus and it will happen to us! For some of us, it has already started, and thank God that there are other ways that we can now glory in the message and ministry of Jesus.


*"Christian Spotlight," "other reviewer," and "critic" refer to a review of Saved! by Jeremy Landes and posted on the Christian Spotlight website. All the quotations in Greg Wright's comments are taken from that review.

Film Reviewer

Chris received his BA in Theatre from Grambling State University in Louisiana. He is an IT Techie by day and armchair film critic/analyst/lover by night. Upon coming to the Lord in 1994 and learning the Word, Chris began to notice Biblical principles and attributes displayed in Hollywood movies and began to apply them to his own life. It's his passion and mission to show the world (Christians and non-Christians) how to apply these principles to their own lives as well.
This review is dedicated to all the "holy rollers" out there in the evangelical churches, Christian high schools, colleges, Bible Clubs, and on the Internet.

You know who you are.

You’ve dismissed Hollywood Jesus as being a liberal website. I know who you are too. We’ve argued together in the forums for The Passion Of The Christ. You’ve declared that Hollywood is a place full of sin and decadence and that the film industry is under Satanic control. You may have spent endless hours praying that the Lord would open the eyes of the Hollywood Jesus reviewers so that we would not be allured by the sin presented in worldly movies. And, in your latest attempt to reclaim our backslidden souls back to Christ, you’ve declared Saved! a blasphemous film that is a complete and total mockery of Christianity in America.

Click to enlargeI have to warn you: I understand you now... thanks to this movie. You really believe that you’re doing the right thing. You sincerely believe that you are following the Word of God to the letter. You cross every “t” and dot every “i” and have made it your life’s mission to be an example to those in the world that they may know that Jesus Christ is real. When it comes to prayer, you’re on the case! When it comes to reading your Bibles, you can quote them from cover to cover. Interceding for others in need? Check! Praying for the homeless? Double-check! Finding sin in the lives of others? Ready to correct them with a swift and timely quote from Ephesians, 1 or 2 Corinthians, or James? Gold star for you!

You really, truly believe that as long as you’re doing the right stuff, God is pleased with you. Right?

Hilary Faye (Mandy Moore) believed that. She did all the right stuff. She reached out to a person who was lost, constantly interceded for those who needed the love of Christ, and was quick to convict (or is that "judge"?) -- and even perform spiritual warfare on behalf of -- a friend who was being ensnared by sin.

But watching her express her desire to please the Lord, a certain Scripture came to mind:

"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'”
--Matthew 7: 21-23

Wait a minute! Isn’t it the will of the Father that we pray, study our Bibles and be ready with a swift Scripture quote to confront those in the world (and especially our fellow Christians) with their sin? Aren’t we supposed to intercede for the lost? Aren’t we supposed to perform spiritual warfare on behalf of our friends who are ensnared in sin?

Of course we are... as long as we do so from a heart of love and compassion, not just out of duty, obligation, and Holy Ghost BROWN-NOSING!

Mary (Jena Malone) starts off this film serving God out of duty and obligation. She does all the right stuff and is found to be among the exemplary Christian young ladies in her Christian high school. Then, her whole world turns upside down. Her boyfriend confesses that he may be gay. Because her reaction to that news occurs in a swimming pool, it leads to her seeing a manifestation of Jesus telling her to “help him.”

How does she decide to “help him”? By going on a personal crusade to “straighten him out” which ultimately leads to the #1 ULTIMATE-MEGA-SUPER-ULTRA-UNFORGIVABLE SIN, at least according to most evangelical churches: she has sex with him and ends up getting pregnant.

Then, when she discovers her pregnancy, she commits the #2 ULTIMATE-MEGA-SUPER... (you get my drift) sin: she curses at God... F-bombs included. (Uh-oh! Somewhere in South Carolina, a church mother just fainted!)

While Mary desperately tries to hide her inner turmoil from her mom (Mary-Louise Parker) and friends, Hilary Faye is both suffering persecution from, and herself persecuting in turn, the lone Jewish girl at their high school: a hellcat named Cassandra (Eva Amurri). The two young ladies engage each other in nonstop verbal catfights, with Cassandra giving Hilary the bird and Hilary using her prayers as a weapon to inflict insults, punishment and guilt upon Cassandra.

Click to enlargeBut, as fate (or maybe the will of God) would have it, Cassandra ends up falling in love with Hilary’s wheelchair-confined brother Roland (Macaulay Culkin), whom Hilary treats with the dignity and respect of a stray dog with rabies.

[SPOILER ALERT]: Roland and Cassandra are the first to find out about Mary’s pregnancy and, instead of turning her over to the spiritual authorities, they offer solace, friendship, and even grace after she’s rejected by Hilary Faye.

Stirring up the pot even further is Pastor Skip (Martin Donovan -- who must have watched a lot of those Acquire the Fire youth ministry TV shows on TBN to prepare for this role), the principal of their high school. While Pastor Skip is encouraging his students to be down with G-O-D -- and meanwhile hiding his romantic feelings for Mary’s mom -- Skip’s son Patrick (Patrick Fugit), wants to be down with Mary.

[SPOILER WARNING]: An early review on another Christian film site reported Pastor Skip as having an affair with Mary’s mom. Just to keep things in perspective, what that review DIDN’T mention is: 1., This “affair” is in fact a tender kiss at a Valentine’s Day dinner; and that 2., Pastor Skip’s wife, described in the film as leaving him for the missionary field, actually desires to divorce him. Patrick reminds him of this fact. But, even though the look in his eyes reveals that he knows his marriage is dead, he won’t divorce her... because God hates divorce.]

Pastor Skip, in a great and vulnerable scene, confesses his feelings for Mary’s mom. But as the conflict in the story builds, he renounces his feelings by making the bold declaration “God is punishing us!”. Patrick makes his feelings evident for Mary as well. But, despite her thinly veiled and reciprocated feelings, she (obviously) has too much on her plate to make room for a boyfriend.

Halfway through the film, as Roland and Cassandra befriend and adopt Mary into their world and demonstrate God’s love and acceptance to her, I shook my head and said, “Darn... the ‘nonbelievers’ have more grace, class and respect than the Christians. Ain’t that just like life?” Sad, but true.

With this in mind, I need to point out the most glaring flaw in the film (other than its unrealistic, "they live happily ever after" ending). The film is missing a bridge. A connector between the "holy-rollers" and the outcasts. The filmmaker has spent so much time emphasizing the two extremes that, as a result, the film is not properly balanced. The closest we get to a bridge is Patrick's character, but he comes across more as a neutral character than a proper balance between the two extremes. Better writing would have put the very likable Pastor Skip as the connection between the two.

This omission adds reasonable evidence to the Fundamental Evangelical claim that the film is a mockery of Christianity. Yes, there are Hilary Fayes among us and there are also outcasts among us. But there are also Christians out there who know they're not of the world but are not ashamed to be in the world. These believers worship the Lord with passion and stand on the truth of His Word but yet aren't too high and mighty to befriend and minister to everyone -- saved or unsaved. Their lives are living answers to the big question "What Would Jesus Do?" It was not a good writing/filmmaking decision to leave this example out of the film.

Nevertheless, it’s amazing that God, before we’ve reached the halfway point of 2004, has allowed “The Passion” to hit screens to remind us of the message of Christ and then, just a few months later, has allowed Saved to hit screens to convict us. We’ve dropped the ball. We talk about grace, but we don’t show it to others. We brag about being “full of Christ’s love,” but either we alienate those who haven’t received His love, or worse: we build up false friendships with them to fulfill our witnessing quotas. John 13:35 says that the world will know that we are followers of Christ NOT by our praying, Bible-reading or because we have well-tuned sin radar screens, but by our love one for another.

Click to enlargeThere are people who have walked away from the Lord because of girls (and boys and even men and women) who behave like Hilary Faye. Only Jesus knows how many unwed pregnancies, drug and sexual addictions and suicides have come from rejections by people who behave like Hilary Faye. These people believe they’re doing the right thing by shouting from the rooftops “God made Adam and EVE... not Adam and STEVE!”. They believe they’re doing the right thing by standing on the corner in the middle of rush-hour traffic, holding pictures of aborted fetuses. They sincerely believe that the right thing after 9-11 was to declare that we must go into Afghanistan, bomb their country and convert them to Christianity.

They’ve also forgotten that while God does hate sin, He does NOT hate the people who are doing the sinning! They may say it, but they don't believe it. Yes! To everyone reading this review who has been told outright or has otherwise gotten the idea that God hates you because you’re gay, you're a drug addict, a sex addict, a teenage, unwed mother or whatever the case may be -- God does not hate you! He loves you... even in the midst of your situation (as Hilary Faye eventually finds out when the tables get turned). Jesus loves you guys... BELIEVE IT!

As for the "holy rollers," those holier-than-thou evangelicals, I suggest that you close your Bibles, get off your knees, and get out to the theatre. See this movie when it hits your town. When and if you feel ashamed and disgusted by the film, go to the nearest mirror and let that shame and disgust fall upon yourselves. May we repent as we drive home in our cars. Because of us (yep... you better believe I’m including myself), this film had to be made. As the tagline of this film says, “Heaven Help Us!”


By Robert Ellis

Note from David Bruce (WebMaster of Hollywood Jesus):
I do not agree -- at all -- with the following warning to Christians. But, I thought it would be good to post a view that is different from the HJ position. My thanks to Mr. Ellis for his kind permission allowing us to post his honest concerns. Please note, Mr. Ellis is commenting on a film he has not seen.


“Saved!” Isn’t

Regarding this latest proof of a clue-less Hollywood, comes this from a May 15th’s Daily Breeze (a local newsparer) editorial… “No one at MGM seems certain how it will be received.” This is referring to their feeble attempt at humor called “Saved!”. Well, wonder no longer.

Apparently “The Passion Of The Christ” taught the secular movie producing industry nothing about what Christianity is all about. The written review alone is enough to warn of them presenting twisted values. Some of the article / website quotes are most telling…

““Saved!”, a small IRREVERENT comedy… “WICKEDLY funny” “SUBVERSIVE comedy” about an evangelical Christian high school…” ...I can’t imagine WHY that would be “difficult to market”.

“The movie is complicated, and its message open to interpretation.” The PG-13 rating isn’t however: “Strong thematic issues involving teen-sexual content, pregnancy, smoking and language.”

Taking something pure and deserving of reverence and mixing in a taste of corruption or perversion for that comedic flavor, mandatory for the Hollywood world, will not capture a truly Christian audience. Hollywood seems to have a problem drawing the distinction between “making fun” and blasphemy that strikes at the heart of Christianity.

One example: “Good girl” Mary (a big OOPS to start off with) has a boyfriend who tells her he thinks he might be gay. She has a vision of “Jesus” telling her to “do everything she can to help him” (not mentioned in your article). This results in her pregnancy. This really fares well when the article includes “MGM executives have been trying what they call the “Hail Mary” approach, … in regard to trying to reach those who turned out for “The Passion of the Christ”.

“…the studio has screened “Saved!” for a gay audience, which loved it”. Well, there’s an endorsement.

Referring to the audience of a screening “… many of whom identify themselves as Christian.” People calling themselves “Christian” doesn’t prove anything. People aren’t born Christians, though they may be born into Christian families. However everyone IS born into sin. If the purpose of the movie is to highlight anything, that might be it. As far as… “taking it (Christianity) to an extreme”, any hope of finding redeeming value in this picture that points to the ONE Who set the standard and paid the price of redemption for any of those who would turn from their sin and embrace Jesus as Lord and Savior… is highly suspect if not doubtful, considering the source.

The passion turned on by this is not the one they were hoping for. I’m planning on warning the Christian community anyway I can not to waste a single penny on this abomination. Better to apply it supporting “what Jesus WOULD do” or approve of rather than waste it supporting this. For example, feeding and clothing the poor… upholding those ministering His Word.

And I will encourage everyone I meet and know to boycott any and all MGM and United Artists productions until they withdraw this disgusting insult to the Name of our LORD from the public arena.



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