Yes, God, Yes

★★★1/2

It’s not every day you see a movie begin with a title card sporting both the literal and sexual euphemism definitions for “tossed salad.” “Obvious Child” co-screenwriter Karen Maine marks her feature directorial debut by doing just this in adapting her short of the same name, “Yes, God, Yes,” which will be available on VOD beginning Friday, July 24.

“Stranger Things” co-star Natalia Dyer headlines the picture as Alice, a Catholic school girl who’s ostensibly a very good, naïve and kind kid. She has urges as most teens do, but they’re fairly benign and mostly revolve around rewinding the sex scene from “Titanic” for a second or even third look.

Alice’s naiveté serves in stark contrast to the rumor circulating about her in school – that she gave her classmate Wade (Parker Wierling) a rim job at a party. Alice doesn’t even know what any of this means and spends the rest of the runtime seeking a definition all along asserting, “I didn’t dress Wade’s salad!”

Alice’s best girlfriend, Laura (Francesca Reale, another “Stranger Things” alum), seeks to improve their social standing. The best way to do this at their school is by attending a weekend retreat presided over by Father Murphy (Timothy Simons of “Veep”). Laura is looking to impress upperclassman, Nina (Alisha Boe, “13 Reasons Why”). Alice takes an interest in Chris (Wolfgang Novogratz, a veteran of Netflix movies such as “Sierra Burgess Is a Loser” and “The Half of It”). Both Nina and Chris serve in leadership roles at the retreat.

“Yes, God, Yes” reminded me a good deal of 2004’s “Saved!,” in the way that it deals with religion, teenagers and teenagers dealing with religion. I don’t think “Yes, God, Yes” is as good as “Saved!” It’s not as dramatic nor as funny. It’s mostly just dirtier. That said, the movie is humorous and does have worthwhile things to say about being religious without being judgmental or hypocritical. A cheeky connection between the two flicks is the inclusion of “Saved!” co-star Mandy Moore’s song “Candy” over the closing credits.

Dyer is a cute and likable presence here much like she is on “Stranger Things” – she’s the main reason to watch the film aside from the crude albeit amusing central joke and some astute theological commentary. In addition to Dyer other standouts include Simons, who can do this sorta awkward comedy in his sleep, and Novogratz, who kinda reads like a young Chris Pratt … I could see this kid going places.

“Yes, God, Yes” feels exactly like what it is – a short stretched to feature length. The movie is a mere 78 minutes and likely would’ve benefitted from being more fleshed out. What’s here is good – I think Maine shows great promise as both a writer and director … I just wish there were more of it.

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