Remote Hog

5:30 tonight

It was easy to take a pass when this little picture hit theaters two years ago. Led by a young cast that included Jena Malone, Mandy Moore and the boy who stood in for Cameron Crowe in Almost Famous, Saved! screamed “Typical Brainless Teen Flick” to the unknowing moviegoing masses. But as they'd later discover via cable movie channels (or Netflix), Saved! is actually a devious little hunka satire, far more honest than most in depicting the way teens walk and talk and mindfuck one another—and the comment on modern evangelical Christianity that coarses through the piece is deliciously subversive. With high school halls as backdrop, Saved! does for American religion what Election does for American politics. In the former, Mary (Malone) attends a Christian high school where the wannabe hip pastor/principal (Martin Donovan) begins assemblies by shouting, “Jesus is in the house!” When she discovers her boyfriend (Chad Faust) is gay, she sees a “vision” of Christ and “saves” the lad by giving him her virginity—which, naturally, leads to an unplanned pregnancy and sets in motion a holy shitstorm that quite literally brings the whole school down. Director Brian Dannelly keeps the pace brisk, the script he co-wrote with Michael Urban includes hilarious, thought-provoking touches, and strong performances are turned in by Moore (as the overly pious and controlling campus queen bitch), Mary-Louise Parker (as Mary's lonely and struggling mom), Susan Sarandon's daughter Eva Amurri (as the bounced-from-every-other-school renegade who sees through all the bullshit) and—in one of his best turns since the Home Alone days—Macaulay Culkin (as Moore's wisecracking, wheelchair-bound, revenge-minded brother). It's appropriate Saved! shows on Showtime since Parker, Donovan and Dannelly later joined forces on the pay-cable network's best series, Weeds, which this space is eager to plug when new episodes return in August.

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