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Clueless for Christ

That Saved! is a high school comedy set in American Eagle Christian Academy shouldn't be more than a gloriously funny premise seen to its conclusion. Since its creators couldn't leave well enough alone, it ends up a lighter-than-communion-wafers teen flick nearly crippled by its own inflated intentions. Tell me, in a world of prom committees and lunch table politics, do we really need a third act struggle over what Jesus would do?

Saved! stars Jena Malone as All American Christian Girl Mary who tries to "help" her All American Christian Boyfriend Dean after he admits he thinks he's gay. She winds up pregnant, first pitied then ostracized by her best friend Hillary Faye (Mandy Moore), the most popular girl in school who wields faith much in the way Heather #1 did a Lunchtime Poll. She is then adopted by Hillary's wheelchair-bound brother (McCauley Culkin), the lone Jew in school and the headmaster's son (Patrick Fugit) who naturally Hillary Faye has eyes for as well.

Stick with this raw material and we've got Clueless with Christ, which I'd see twice on Sunday. But comedies set in Christian schools historically blunder by overreaching (see the way-too-violent Heaven Help Us and the preposterous finale of Dangerous Lives of Alter Boys) and Saved! is no exception. The Jew Girl rebellious outbursts are overwritten and false, a romance between Mary's mom and the Headmaster is wholly unnecessary and, worst of all, any attempts to examine Christian theology in this setting should have been seen as overkill and chucked by the first rewrite. They weren't.

Still Saved! works if you ignore it by half or watch it with one eye closed. Jena Malone puts up a good fight in the lead and it's always a pleasure to see Patrick Fugit and Heather Mazzaro, who has a small role. Mandy Moore is actually better as a villain than a plaster molded heroine and should ignore A Walk to Remember fans who tell her otherwise. It's too bad they all get stuck in a movie that can't decide what it "means" without realizing that it doesn't need to mean anything.

Stars: 3 out of 5