Saved! (2004) Clerks II (2006)

It amazes me how two films from roughly the same time period can be so amazingly different, yet both make me laugh when I really need it.

“Saved!” came out roughly the same time as “Mean Girls,” and the stories share a lot: cliques, prom queens, stuck-up witches, the parent who tries to be cool. The difference is that “Saved” takes place in a Christian high school. Mary (Jena Malone) and her “good Christian boyfriend” Dean (Chad Faust) have this game they play. In the swimming pool, they’ll take deep breaths, then go underwater and tell each other secrets. Dean’s is a big secret: he’s gay. Mary tries to get out of the pool, and conks her head on the rail. Dean gallantly tries to save her, only to slip and fall. A man is doing some–what else–carpentry, and dives in to save Mary. Maybe it’s the head bump, maybe it’s a vision, but the carpenter appears as Jesus, and tells Mary to help Dean.

She takes this to mean, “Help Dean not be gay,” and so they have sex once. Dean may be gay, but he ain’t shootin’ blanks: Mary gets pregnant.

As school starts, Mary finds herself hanging with the most-popular, overly pious witch in the school, Hilary Faye (Mandy Moore). Also on the periphery of their clique is Tia (Heather Matarazzo), whose father is an alcoholic.

Hilary Faye has a paraplegic younger brother named Roland (Macauley Culkin). He’s cynical, and takes his big sis with many grains of salt.

The first day of school, a purple AMC Javelin (badass ride) comes screeching into the parking lot. The driver is the school’s lone “Jewish,” a rebellious misanthrope named Cassandra (Eva Amurri). She and Roland hit it off. As Mary’s pregnancy continues, she finds herself questioning her faith and her friends, and grows closer to Cassandra and Roland.

Dean is sent off to Mercy House, a Christian treatment center, for “degayification.” However, a cool new kid, Patrick (Patrick Fugit) catches Mary’s eye.

“Saved” could have been cruel and sacreligous, but it really wasn’t. I found it to be sweet, and that it played up that which unites us through our beliefs and humanity, not that which separates us.

Jena Malone and Mandy Moore are excellent in the two leading roles. What amazed me was the spectacular supporting actors, especially Eva Amurri (Susan Sarandon’s daughter), Heather Matarazzo (who’s always brilliant), and a brilliant Macauley Culkin. In many ways, he was the one who understood everything that was happening, and took it for what it was. Also, Mary Louise Parker plays Mary’s mom. MLP makes any movie at least 10% better with her presence.

There was nothing groundbreaking in “Saved,” but I think it’s a ..sweet, funny, well acted film, that never felt cloying or mocking.

“Clerks II”…oh dearie dear. If you saw Kevin Smith’s debut feature, “Clerks” last century, you recall that it was cheaply shot, and starred unknown actors. It told the story of Dante (Brian O’Halloran) and Randall (Jeff Anderson), who basically talk hilariously for 90 minutes while working in a Quik Stop. “Clerks” was in grainy black & white, and made with Kevin Smith maxing out his credit cards–even then, half the money went to music rights.

“Clerks II” starts a decade later, when Dante goes to open the Quik Stop, only to find it on fire. Randall observes, “I left the coffee machine on again, didn’t I?”

Pass two years, and the pair are working at Mooby’s, a typical chain fast food restaurant. Dante is on his last day–the next day, he’s scheduled to be off to Florida with his rich girl fiancee, Emma (Jennifer Schwalbach Smith (Kevin’s wife)).

Complicating things is that Dante has a thing for the Mooby’s manager Becky (an excellent Rosario Dawson), who kind of has a thing for him as well, despite her fervent protestations that she doesn’t believe in romantic love.

Jay and Silent Bob (Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith) are back, after six months in rehab, and they are off weed. They have a beer or two, and they still deal, but they don’t smoke. They don’t need to. They’re wacked anyway. At one point, Jay does the creepy Buffalo Bill dance from “Silence of the Lambs” (yes, with the tuck).

I liked “Clerks II” better than the original. It had a few montage sequences that could have been shortened, but no big deal. I laughed my ass off. If you are offended by profanity, watch “Saved.” Trust me. “Clerks II” has, according to IMDB.com, 136 f-bombs in 97 minutes. It also has…um, something famous in Tijuana?? Oh, and IMDB also notes, “There are 16 uses of the term ‘ass to mouth.'”

“Clerks II” is definitely raw, but it got to my inner heathen, the same way “Saved” got to my small, creamy nougat center. I may have assembled an odder double-feature for myself at some time, but I can’t remember when. I recommend them both, but with “Clerks II,” caveat f***ing emptor, m**********r.

Saved: B+
Clerks II: A-

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One Response to “Saved! (2004) Clerks II (2006)”

  1. Christina Says:

    I tried to watch “Saved” once, but I hated Mandy Moore more than she deserved at the time. I should try watching it again with an open mind. I mean, I liked her in “Because I Said So,” so I don’t think I hate her anymore.

    I forget why I hated her so much in the first place.
    Oh, it was her music. Oh her voice is just way, way too… sweet.

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