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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 34.92%
Average: 3.17%
Pretty Bad: 11.11%
Total Crap: 7.94%

3 reviews, 45 user ratings

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Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys, The
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by EricDSnider

"Insert your own priest joke here. (Insert your own 'insert' joke, too.)"
4 stars

The peril referred to in the title of "The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys" has literal meaning in the film. But more precisely, it's a spiritual and emotional danger, the danger faced not just by altar boys but by all adolescent males.

The kids in Peter Care's engaging film are students at a Catholic school in the 1970s. They face the overly strict teacher Sister Assumpta (Jodie Foster), apathetic parents, and their own hormones. Especially their own hormones. If you've ever been 13 and a boy, the words and actions of these boys will ring painfully true.

The film primarily follows Francis Doyle (Emile Hirsch), a likable lad with a rebellious, mischievous streak that is constantly encouraged by his best friend Tim Sullivan (Kieran Culkin). Any misdemeanor Francis has considered committing, chances are Tim is already working up plans for it.

They, along with two other friends, want to be comic book artists, and the superhero personas they've created for themselves appear in the film in animated segments (done by Todd McFarlane), with fantasy plots paralleling reality. Meanwhile, Francis has a thing for Margie Flynn (Jena Malone), a sweet young girl who already has a past.

The inciting action is a trip to the local zoo, where Tim and Francis become fascinated by a cougar and decide the best thing to do is to steal it and put it in Sister Assumpta's office. The rest of the film has that plan in the background, with the turmoil of teen-agerhood occupying the foreground.

Screenwriters Jeff Stockwell and Michael Petroni, working from Chris Fuhrman's novel, have formed a vivid, accurate portrayal of hormonal adolescence and its attendant crises. My one major complaint is that not enough attention is given to the character of Tim, who is a supporting figure, yes, but one who figures prominently in the main action. His jealousy when Francis starts hanging out too much with Margie is one of the truest things in the film, but it's hardly dealt with. More background on his family -- other than a cursory nod to his father's alcoholism -- would have helped make his destiny more poignant, too. In fact, with Kieran Culkin's very insightful performance, one would not be out of line in wishing the self-destructive Tim were the protagonist, and the rather less interesting Francis relegated to a supporting bit.

Nonetheless, quibbles about a film as humorous and innocent as this one are just that: quibbles. For while some opportunities for real intrigue may have been wasted, many others are seized upon to great effect, and the movie is good.

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originally posted: 06/14/02 06:55:55
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2002 Seattle Film Festival. For more in the 2002 Seattle Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

7/29/04 Joanne Holy Shit this movie is rad!'re a legend!! 5 stars
7/29/04 Carly awesome movie!!! Kieran and Emile are hotties! 5 stars
7/29/04 Josey Abendanon AWESOME,best movie EVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
7/15/04 Jason Eyre Interesting; different from Blockbuster gibberish 4 stars
1/24/04 Elena Poignant and colourful, this film catches the angst and magic of being 14 and vivifies them 5 stars
12/03/03 fernanda peddrueza i loved this movie its realy cool and better with Emile Hirsch he is so hot 5 stars
10/30/03 Kelli This is an wonderful movie and an even better book. 4 stars
10/13/03 sophie linklater I absolutely loved the movie. The cast is phenomenal. The story is very original 5 stars
9/16/03 Franky I think this movie was an ignorant attempt for an original movie 2 stars
5/15/03 George Jung Doesn't hold up after multiple viewings, but still has its good parts 3 stars
4/12/03 Andrew Carden Good Screenplay, but Foster Is Miscast and Animated Isn't Needed. 3 stars
4/06/03 Jon A unique movie with a refreshing story 5 stars
3/22/03 Skankin' inThePit love this movie :) 5 stars
2/05/03 Anne Emile Hirsch is soooo hot in this movie. Thw whole movie kicks ass 5 stars
2/03/03 CM Thsi movie was SO great! I think that Kieran Culkin is AMAZING! 5 stars
1/23/03 kt it was one of the best movies i've ever seen! 5 stars
1/23/03 Greg FEcteau It was the shit i though 5 stars
1/09/03 MovieFan The end was a bit unbelievable, but the characters were rich! Excellent. 4 stars
12/30/02 jonathan sonet fucking good 5 stars
12/14/02 Kendall Kieran couldnt have been hotter or done better at being Tim. Emile was great too. Very deep 5 stars
11/29/02 Phil M. Aficionado Good but tried too hard; hence not believable and cliched in some aspects 4 stars
11/29/02 Christina Emile Hirsch and Kieran Culkin was really hot in that movie 5 stars
11/27/02 Dan Mins hollywood's laughable simulacrum (sp?) of "authentic youth" 1 stars
11/27/02 Leon Li "Don't you ever tell me whats real!"- melodramatic scene w/ dead dog 1 stars
11/24/02 Annie One hell of a movie, and Emile and Keiran are absoloutley amazing! 5 stars
11/15/02 Shannon Very well done, except that I wish that they would have put more focus on Tims home life 4 stars
11/13/02 Lon Rowe I'm 40 and was mesmerized. The animation helped reflect the power of Francis' emotions. 5 stars
11/11/02 sandy beautiful and touching-loved it 5 stars
11/10/02 LessThanColleen Amazing, good shit. Good ending but made me teary-eyed 5 stars
9/22/02 Morally Sound An awsome movie with a lot of emotional power. 5 stars
9/19/02 Jessica Brokamp great plot! great acting! overall great movie! 5 stars
9/18/02 Patrick Don't waste your time. 1 stars
8/20/02 J Staar like being 15 again. good reality and concept features; holds your attention; 4 stars
8/17/02 brainiac emile hirsch & the animation are amazing. really good. 5 stars
8/13/02 Brian J. Fantastic acting -- brilliant development of the relationship between the two boys. 5 stars
8/12/02 Gill Lawlee Despite what jim the movie freak says,I thought the animated scenes aplified the emotion. 5 stars
8/06/02 rose ! :) 5 stars
8/02/02 Kris Precocious, implausible, disjointed 1 stars
8/01/02 bigdeel watch it stoned 5 stars
7/07/02 Nick2k i liked it. but the animation sidetracking really served no purpose. 4 stars
7/02/02 Mr. Bad Example Very enjoyable until the weak ending. 4 stars
7/01/02 jm Don't let the title fool you, this movie is nothing like what you might expect. 4 stars
6/24/02 Mark Davidson This amazing, innovative and emotional film is among the year's best. Emile Hirsch shines 5 stars
6/19/02 Danielle Ophelia A thoughtful and cathartic work. Does NOT parallel the recent Catholic controversy. 4 stars
6/15/02 Bob Evans In lieu of the crisis in the Catholic church, i thought this movie is in bad taste. 1 stars
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  14-Jun-2002 (R)
  DVD: 05-Nov-2002



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