The 365 Best Films of the 2000s

Heroes of the Zeroes: Saved!

Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films of 2000-2009.

Rated PG-13

“Jesus is watching,” reads a Christian-classroom mural in 2004’s “Saved!” — uninviting words of warning that intractably back teens into a corner of bargaining.

Do this to avoid that, rather than do something because it’s clearly the right thing. How can a teenage girl in that environment ever reconcile her imperfections when instruction pushes her to pray for morning sickness to be cancer, not pregnancy?

It’s one of many moments that’s screamingly funny but also sad in Brian Dannelly’s incisive, but not entirely irreverent, send-up of Christian fundamentalism. The title’s exclamation point isn’t for show, but questions Christianity’s constant urgency: Is salvation really unattainable for these kids if they’re not seeking it this second, every second, 24/7?

Spurred by a head-trauma vision of Jesus, Mary (Jena Malone) has sex with her boyfriend, who’s come out as gay, to convert him. When she gets pregnant, Mary hides it from social queen Hilary Faye (Mandy Moore, less a villain than a teen with severe lapses in judgment) and befriends paraplegic Roland (a quick-witted, wry Macaulay Culkin) and rebellious Cassandra (Eva Amurri), the school’s only “Jewish.”

Dannelly and Michael Urban’s script could’ve settled for empty-calorie satirical slapdowns, but instead posed thoughtful, challenging questions about the relative worthlessness of forced value systems.

Genuinely upbeat about kindness and generosity, “Saved!” is only snide about Christianity as a hypocritical weapon or crutch and never spirituality itself. If ever a film successfully mixed John Waters’ naughty sass with Frank Capra’s cordial sweetness, the strangely moving “Saved!” did it.

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2 Responses to “Heroes of the Zeroes: Saved!”

  1. Courtney Hime says:

    I remember the first time I saw this movie…it blew me away. As a Catholic it hit home on a lot of things that I hadn’t seen in the movies before (except for comically in Dogma!). Even though Mandy Moore is fantastic as a villain and Jena Malone hits a home run as a confused Christian teen, I think that Heather Matarazzo, Eva Amurri and Macaulay Culkin make the movie what it is.

  2. Meya Porker says:

    The willingness to take on a subject that many teens face today is what made this a great movie. Although it presented some of the issues in a funny way, it was clear about the message that Christians make mistakes so why be judgmental as no one is perfect. I give this movie an A.