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MOVIE REVIEW

To Save a Life

When growing up means growing a conscience

Randy Wayne stars as a regretful jock and Deja Kreutzberg is his girlfriend in “To Save a Life.’’
Randy Wayne stars as a regretful jock and Deja Kreutzberg is his girlfriend in “To Save a Life.’’
By Wesley Morris
Globe Staff / February 1, 2010

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Guilt is a terrible thing. It can also produce lousy movies. “To Save a Life’’ is cheesy on matters of God and conscience. A hair-flipping basketball jock named Jake Taylor (Randy Wayne) rues the suicide of his baby-faced childhood friend. Jake spent years ignoring Roger (Robert Bailey Jr.), who walked with a limp after he threw himself in front of a speeding car to save Jake when they were kids. One boy became popular. The other became a pariah. Sick of all the neglect, Roger walks into his California school and shoots himself.

Jake’s not the only person with regrets. Before his death, Roger walked into a Christian youth group for help. The pastor (Joshua Weigel) who blew him off feels bad, too. He succeeds at bringing Jake into the fold. Jake has his early doubts, but before the movie’s first hour is over, he’s railing against the hypocrisy of the partiers and potheads in his midst.

The writer Jim Britts and the director Brian Baugh use the impressionable characters and utterly basic message-mindedness of an after-school special to make a kind of sweet-natured recruitment film. Here’s Jake to his skeptical girlfriend: “I want to introduce you to Chris.’’ That’s the pastor’s name, but you get the point. “To Save a Life’’ wants to show the light to cutters, suicidals, fakers, unhappy couples, and unborn children.

Everybody means well, but the earnestness is embarrassing. At some point, Roger acts out several of his cry-for-help blog entries. The male actors all close-talk each other in the most uncomfortable way. The house parties are unconvincing, the hip-hop bad (“put your cups down, playuhs’’) and beach-rock worse (“Take another shot-shot, thinking why not-not’’). Young Christians deserve better movies. I know what you’re thinking, though: What’s this have to do with anything? How’s the God? Truth be told, He’s pretty good.

Wesley Morris can be reached at wmorris@globe.com. For more on movies, go to www.boston.com/movienation.

TO SAVE A LIFE

Directed by: Brian Baugh

Written by: Jim Britts

Starring: Randy Wayne, Robert Bailey Jr., Joshua Weigel

At: AMC Loews Liberty Tree Mall

Running time: 120 minutes

Rated: PG-13 (mature thematic elements involving teen suicide, teen drinking, some drug content, disturbing images and sexuality)

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