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The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys
The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys (Soundtrack)
The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys (Novel)

The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys Review

Directed By: Peter Care.
Starring: Emile Hirsch, Jena Malone, Kieran Culkin, Jodie Foster, Vincent D'Onofrio

Synopsis: Set in the South in the early 1970s, it tells the tale of two bright but rebellious boys, Francis Doyle (Emile Hirsch) and Tim Sullivan (Kieran Culkin), and their closest friends, who are fighting the stultifying repression of their parish school. They fight boredom, hormones, unresponsive teachers and clueless families in their quest to find something meaningful. Francis is an exceptional artist, whose imaginative forays into a fictional universe of good and evil fill his notebooks with comic-book imagery and create a netherworld of superhero alter egos for the two boys. Foremost among the forces of evil is the stern and disapproving nun, Sister Assumpta (Jodie Foster), who rules their lives. She seizes their artwork one day, setting the boys on an obsessed trail of revenge that ultimately changes their lives.

Neither an art-house film nor a typical Hollywood flick, the only think I can think of as being comparable to Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys is Stand By Me and that's mainly due to the similar themes of loss of innocence, coming-of-age, etc, etc, etc, blah, blah, blah.

While I compare it to Stand By Me, it doesn't share the same sense of wistfulness or humour...but is based in a darker reality. A reality escaped through the pages of DC and Marvel comics. It is this 70's reality that will inevitably come crashing down around them and while this seems to be a foregone conclusion to the viewer...these facts escape the characters. Why? Because they are young, male and despite momentary bursts of keen eyed intelligence, inevitably do some stupid male things that are part of growing up.

For example, who but a couple of kids would think that it is a good idea to steal a cougar from the local zoo and set it in Nunzilla's (their pet name for Sister Assumpta played nicely by Jodie Foster) office? For the entire movie you sit there thinking, yup, this is a pretty dumb plan...but at 14 or 15, it would seem like genius.

The main three leads, Emile Hirsch, Kieran Culkin and Jena Malone are all on the mark here, Culkin more than anybody. Sure, his older brother may have landed lasting fame and fortune with Home Alone but Kieran is shaping up to be an actor who will bring the name Culkin back into the good graces of Hollywood. He is fantastic here as he was in The Mighty and The Cider House Rules.

Starting with an opening scene that not only shows you this is not going to be a family film (featuring alcohol and destruction of property) it also establishes these two 'buddies' are pretty much on a collision course. While some of the film does lag there are other scenes, including the abduction of the school statue that barely make up for the weaker spots.

In contrast, the animated scenes showing Francis at work, not only on his comic aspirations, but in his mind trying to figure out what is going on in his life are high energy, violent and fascinating. Todd McFarlane of Spawn creation fame has outdone himself and really brought to life the doodlings of a confused boy. All the sex, all the violence...all the things that really matter!

This would be a hard film to recommend to most people but for those who have the time and inclination to see some solid performances...this is worth the watch. Forced to give a number I'm labelling it with a three out of five.

Copyright© Written By: Rob Paul

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Evil Ash

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