The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys DVD review

Film / Video Reviews
The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys DVD review
Dec 12, 2002, 01:55

THE DANGEROUS LIVES OF ALTAR BOYS directed by Peter Care; Columbia Tristar, 2002

The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys sets out to defy the stereotypes of your typical coming of age story. Combining elements of Stand By Me, Todd McFarlane animation, and a bit of After School Special no nonsense, The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys tells the tale of four Catholic school boys who set out to pull off the ultimate revenge prank. Their intended target is a stoic, one-legged nun played by Jodie Foster.

Set in the South during the 1970s and based on the novel by Chris Fuhrman, the four boys led by Tim Sullivan (Kieran Culkin) create a comic called “The Atomic Trinity” where the boys express their anger, fears, and passion. This is where the boys' alter egos battle it out with the evil Sister Assumpta (Foster) played out on the screen through animated sequences created by McFarlane. The film cuts back and forth between reality and animated fantasy, which at times isn't as seamless as it should be.

We are given a brief sketch of the personal lives of each boy that leaves the audience guessing when it comes to motivation for action. There's definitely something more to it than just adolescent hormones and juvenile hi-jinx though. Foster's character alludes to the undercurrent that makes Sullivan tick early in the film, but it's never really explored any further. The one character that we gain insight into is Margie Flynn (Jena Malone) who plays Francis' (Emile Hirsch) love interest. Flynn holds a secret that when revealed demonstrates the lack of maturity that the boys possess.

This lack of maturity or better sense (take your pick) also comes into play when Sullivan schemes a plot to drug a cougar with cough syrup and place it in Sister Assumpta's office. This plot also reveals weakness in the film due to its improbability. It is this improbability that the leap to adulthood is based on.

While the film is obviously flawed, it is not hopeless. There are moments, especially those created by McFarlane, that hold the film together. And even though the film is predictable to a point there is credit due for avoiding typical coming of age clichés.

-Troy Brookins

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