Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Brian Dannelly's movie waltzes across the floor of high school comedys like a new kid out to prove he's in a class of his own. It gives the genre a new twist, with it's sideswipe at Christian fundamentalism. As the school's pastor says, "Jesus saves - and, boy, is he in da house!"

Mary (Jena Malone) is just an ordinary teenager, dating her ordinary bloke... until he tells her that he thinks he's gay.

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Convinced by her beliefs that this can't possibly be true, she decides - thanks to a "vision from God" - that the only way to get him back on track is to give him a swift roll in the hay.

Swift it may be, but the consequences are somewhat more far-reaching, when she discovers that he is still gay and she's pregnant.

So we watch as she goes into denial, trying to hide her secret from bitchy queen bee Hilary Faye (Mandy Moore), while forming a bond with Hilary's disabled brother (Macaulay Culkin), "Jewish stripper" Cassandra (Eva Amurri) and all-round-good-teen Patrick (Patrick Fugit).

The script races along and is peppered with great one-liners, from Patrick's "hitting the board to the Lord" to Hilary's insistence that "you're not born a gay, you're born again."

The characters are neatly drawn and believable, from Cassandra's "teen with 'tude" persona to Hilary's belief that she is the most Christian amongst cheerleaders, despite her witchy ways. And the cast makes it work. Even Culkin, whom I have always found overrated, manages a neatly timed performance, while Malone, Moore and Amurri are nothing short of excellent.

Perhaps the movie's greatest achievement is that it manages to satirise Christianity without demonising it. Yes, it is playful and quick to point out failings of faith, but it does so in a way that is less condemnatory than you would expect.

Christianity isn't the issue here, anyway, only the hypocrisy of some of those who profess it. Welcome to The Gospel According To Dannelly and Urban.

Don't worry, it's fun.

Reviewed on: 05 Nov 2004
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High school comedy takes a side-swipe at Christian fundamentalism after a teenage girl becomes pregnant to her gay pal.
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David Haviland *

Director: Brian Dannelly

Writer: Brian Dannelly, Michael Urban

Starring: Jena Malone, Mandy Moore, Eva Amurri, Macaulay Culkin, Patrick Fugit, Heather Matarazzo, Chad Faust, Elizabeth Thai, Martin Donovan, Mary-Louise Parker, Kett Turton

Year: 2004

Runtime: 92 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: US


EIFF 2004

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