The teen comedy genre is mostly focused on the lowest common denominator, with cheaply and hastily made movies targeted at an audience enamored with scatological references and perfectly placed pop songs.
But sometimes a movie emerges, a Real Genius or Heathers or Breakfast Club, that transcends the form.
Saved! is such a movie.
First things first. This movie has taken considerable heat from certain quarters for casting Christianity in a negative light.
Yes, Saved! is a sharp satire about teens wrestling with issues of faith, religion and morality while attending a conservative Christian high school. The smart script never goes for the easy or obvious laugh, however. It treats each character's belief system as authentic and justified, and then goes to town on how they translate in their increasingly complex lives.
Although much of the credit can be directed at the film's subtle script, it is the actors who ensure the movie's success.
Many of the situations and characters - a teen impregnated in an effort to "cure" her gay boyfriend, a wheelchair-bound student who uses his wheels to seduce the school's lone Jewish enrollee, and a prideful soul saver who uses God as a fashion accessory - veer toward parody, but the cast manages to keep the sense of absurdity to a minimum.
Unfortunately, the Saved! setup requires a certain shift in tone and style as the film reaches its climax. A need to tie up loose ends, particularly in terms of the aforementioned pregnancy, robs the last act of some of its wicked wit, replacing it with a few life-affirming lessons. In truth, there probably was no other way to draw things to a close, but the sudden shift is a bit jarring.
The title: Saved! (MGM, $26.98)MPAA rating: PG-13 Run time: 92 minutes
Features: While the deleted and extended scenes are entertaining, the two commentary tracks and a making-of documentary are far more interesting, particularly in terms of the struggle to get this movie made and released. The most interesting fact: After legitimate contemporary Christian bands refused to license music for the climactic prom sequence, music by the '80s underground act the Replacements was used.
The verdict: HHHH out of HHHHH
Reach Steven Uhles at (706) 823-3626 or firstname.lastname@example.org.