I prepared myself for the worst. All I knew about Saved! before renting it was that it was a spoof on Christian youth groups, a subject on which I have strong but conflicting feelings. I was all ready to cringe at reminders of the babbling prayers and cheesy God-pop songs I had endured during my teenage years, and I had my indignation all warmed up at the bilious denouncement of all things churchy that was sure to be the thrust of the film. Suitably steeled against religion and anti-religion, I popped the disc in the player.

To my considerable surprise, Saved! isn’t much of a satire at all, which probably makes it a failure in some viewers’ eyes, but a relief in mine, as it offers me a reprieve from the angst-fest I had been planning on. Instead, it’s a harmless high-school comedy that uses Christianity as a backdrop: Mary’s (Jena Malone) crisis of faith and Hilary Faye’s (Mandy Moore) teen-queen piousness are less a critique of religious attitudes and more a novel variation on standard teen movie types.

The thing that makes the film fall flat as satire is the same thing that makes it click for me: its unrepentant affection for its characters. Mary, despite her trials and tribulations, retains an aura of sweet innocence (you didn’t think her name was a coincidence, did you?); Roland (Macaulay Culkin) and Cassandra (Eva Amurri) sift through their shared cynicism to find a relationship that surprises both of them with its earnestness; in the end, not even Hilary Faye, hypocritical and self-absorbed in the grand tradition of Heathers and Plastics, is irredeemable.

With such an affable, non-threatening cast, there’s little chance of Saved! having social commentary with any real bite, and indeed, the film’s big “God loves everybody, why can’t we” speech lands with a big clunk. If I wanted to be reminded how much people suck, though, I could go watch a Neil LaBute film or CNN. Saved! is more interested in acting out its message of acceptance and affection than in delivering it.