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Oct 19, 2004 By: JaneBlo
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Director:
Brian Dannelly

Actors:
Jena Malone
Mandy Moore
Macauley Culkin

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
Not your typical high school teenage comedy, this one is set in a Christian school where one of the main characters is not even Christian, but Jewish. The story revolves around five teens with their own unique issues (Malone, Culkin, Amurri, Fugit and Moore) as they struggle to find themselves and come to terms with the pressures of adolescence, Christianity, and finding their own voices and paths in life.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
This story was quite engaging, to say the least. It was also extremely well written, funny and very well acted. The chemistry between all the characters was perfect, so good casting. We have here all the issues non-Christian high schools have such as teen pregnancy, teen homosexuality, and just plain wanting to fit in within the sometimes scary confines of a high school. This wonderfully eclectic cast of characters is mainly comprised of Cassandra the rebel (Eva Amurri aka Susan Sarandon’s daughter), a very smart ass outsider and non-Christian who falls in love with the wheelchair bound, and all around nice guy Roland (Macauley Culkin). These two made a very sweet couple in the movie, very loving. We also have a naïve, sweet girl named Mary, the main character (Jena Malone) who gets herself in trouble and is pushed around by the most popular girl in school Hilary Faye (Mandy Moore) even though they’re best friends. There is the “cute” skateboarder and pastor’s son Patrick (Patrick Fugit) who falls for the “cute” girl, Mary. Also, Mary’s mother is played by Mary-Louise Parker who has her own interesting yet smaller storyline here. I enjoyed it. By far the coolest character is Hilary Faye and she is wonderfully acted by Ms. Moore.

In the beginning, we find Hilary Faye and Mary shooting at a gun range and Hilary Faye says, “We Christian girls have got to know how to protect ourselves. Sure, Jesus can restore my spiritual and physical virginity, but who wants that?”. She’s a tough Christian and she’s mad most of the movie. But this statement leads her friend Mary down a dangerous path as she goes to “save” her gay boyfriend. Hilary Faye is also out to “save” everyone she can, in particular the biggest sinner in school, Cassandra, and lastly, the horrible way she treats her differently-abled brother Roland is just sad to witness in this film. Mandy Moore plays the mean girl really well, she has an edge and passion about her. Other touches that made me enjoy the film even more, were a version of Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus” heard in the film, Mandy Moore singing on stage, the Christian Jewels girl gang and seeing these Christian rock bands who were are also featured in this movie. Not that that is my type of music, but it was cool to check it out nonetheless. It’s very inspiring music, but I like my hard rock, thank you very much.
THE EXTRAS
Audio Commentary by Director and Co-Writer Brian Dannelly, Producer Sandy Stern and Co-Writer Michael Urban: This is not a bad commentary, spoken in a very casual manner, with a few welcome pauses here and there. It was interesting at times, some cool facts about the making of the film, and boring and lame at other points.

Audio Commentary by actors Jena Malone and Mandy Moore: It’s clear that these girls are young, we can tell by listening to their comments here. They are very friendly together, giggly at times, and talk in slang too, which all goes to show their age. That said, a very engaging and sweet commentary that is very different from the previous one as this one is seen from the actors’ perspective. They say “totally” a lot.

“Heaven Help Us” behind the scenes featurette: Less than five minutes long, but a very fun look at the main actors and people working on this film.

Deleted / Extended Scenes: A dozen different scenes which were changed or completely eliminated for the final cut of the film make this a boring feature and my least favorite extra.

Bloopers: Four very unfunny bloopers, if one can call them that, made me like this feature even less than the previous one. Not even worth including on the DVD.

Saved Revelations: An all right feature, very short, that shows us the “answers” to different not-terribly important questions like “What’s Veronica really thinking?” (Veronica being one of the Christian Jewels girl gang.)

Trailer for the film and ads for seven other MGM releases included as well.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
This film is deep on some level and it made me laugh too. It is refreshing to see a different take on high school life, a Christian view, and it is nice to see a movie that people of all ages can enjoy. Without great dialogue and great characters, there is no point to a film and here we have those in spades and mixed with a lot of humor and sensitivity, this movie is a sure winner. The extra features were not bad either, but they were secondary to this amazing film. I recommend you pick this one up soon because no matter what age you are, and no matter what religion you are, it is enjoyable for all and it is even worth watching more than once…I did.
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