Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Managed to pull entry for two into a media screening of Saved! last night. A typical high school comedy with the usual stereotypes:

  • Inept adult figures, especially the parents.

  • A super-popular, pretty, vain but stupid and mean-spirited young blonde who is, of course, the main antagonist. Mandy Moore hams it up in this undemanding role.

  • Stupider sycophants for the antagonist. Usually two.

  • The school outcasts. Usually a duo.

  • A protagonist who gains acceptance into the antagonist's group but later comes to realise that her real friends are the outcasts.

  • Cute guy who becomes an object of contention between the protagonist and antagonist.

  • A feel-good ending. The protagonist gets the cute guy. The social outcasts are vindicated. The antagonist realises she's wrong and is redeemed. The inept adults have their resolution. No-one dies or is grieviously hurt. Everyone lives happily ever after.

Saved! tries to rise above this hackneyed formula by spoofing fundamentalist Christian attitudes and practices throughout, transposing the relevant memes onto the secular American high school environment most moviegoers would be (for better or for worse) familiar with. Classrooms with colourful "Creationism" displays on the noticeboard, a large Jesus Christ billboard as youth project, Christian rock school concerts etc. By exaggerating fundamentalist Christian influences, the movie does take a dig at the tendency in some groups to see Christianity as some quintessence of being American. More importantly, the movie skewers human arrogance and hypocrisy. Religion here is a vehicle, not the target.

But with two-dimensional characters, a cliched narrative and passable dialogue Saved! is really another thin serving of American high school comedy, even if the protagonist is an unwed mother. Of particular note is Macaulay Culkin -- an absolute riot as Mandy Moore's sardonic wheelchair-bound brother and probably the best thing in the movie.

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