The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys (2002)



Critic Consensus: The inter-cutting of animation by Spawn's creator, Todd McFarlane, doesn't always work, but the performances by the young actors capture the pains of growing up well.

Movie Info

The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys brings Chris Fuhrman's well-received, posthumously published teen novel to the screen. Set in the 1970s, the film concerns two rebellious Catholic schoolboys -- bashful, pensive Francis (Emile Hirsch) and whip-smart, impulsive Tim (Kieran Culkin) -- who spend their free time pulling elaborate pranks and creating a comic book featuring themselves and their friends, Wade (Jake Richardson) and Joey (Tyler Long), as superheroes. Their alter egos are brought to life … More

Rating: R (adult situations/language, nudity)
Genre: Drama
Directed By:
Written By: Jeff Stockwell, Michael Petroni
In Theaters:
On DVD: Nov 5, 2002
Box Office: $1.5M
ThinkFilm - Official Site



as Francis

as Sister Assumpta

as Craig Dockery

as Mrs. Sullivan

as Mr. Doyle

as Mrs. Doyle
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys

Friend Ratings

No Friends? Inconceivable! Log in to see what your friends have to say.


Critic Reviews for The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys

All Critics (118) | Top Critics (34)

Altar Boys doesn't strive to revolutionise the genre, but by playing to what it knows the film works as an appealing teenage reminiscence.

Full Review… | November 16, 2012
Empire Magazine Australasia

Esforça-se ao máximo para arrancar lágrimas do espectador, mas, com exceção da performance cativante de Culkin, o filme empalidece diante de tantos outros do gênero.

May 20, 2005
Cinema em Cena

Devious, delinquent, and diverting.

Full Review… | November 12, 2004

A fairly formulaic '70s-set coming-of-age tale that's ultimately distinguished by the passion of its makers and players.

Full Review… | January 12, 2004

The only bright spot in the whole movie is Vincent D'Onofrio's performance as a priest.

Full Review… | April 19, 2003
Reel Film Reviews

Ultimately feels empty and unsatisfying, like swallowing a Communion wafer without the wine.

Full Review… | December 8, 2002
Film Threat

Audience Reviews for The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys


Based on the title, you might think this has something to do with the church sex abuse scandals that were all over the media around the time this film came out. In actuality, it's based on a book (which I haven't read) about two best friends and altar boys in the 1970s who resort to making their own lurid comic book, pulling dnagerous and risky pranks, and casually experimenting with drugs and alcohol to deal with boredom. There's more to it of course, such as the boys dealing with various facets of growing up and learning life lessons.

What sets the film apart are some bombastic and very colorful animated sequences which parallel the main action and help to flesh out some stuff (mostly inner thoughts and feelings) that is probably elaborated far more in the book (which is probably better anyway. I did like this though, because it is entertaining, and it's got some great music Marco Beltrami and Josh Homme, as well as some credible actors giving some credible performances.

Despite the terrific work from Culkin, Hirsch, Malone, D'Onofrio, and Foster, and the great animation work from Todd McFarlane, this film feels very uneven and it tries to blend a lot of stuff together, including some rather really dark revelations about a certain character. I didn't think it gelled all that well, especially since some of the shifts in tone can be quite jarring. I didn't think it was enough to totally sink the movie, though. I just think it could have been handled better, namely with some stronger writing.The movie could have done a tad better job of establishing the time and place, but that's really just a bitchy nitpick.

All in all, this movie is flawed, but it has good intentions, and the animated stuff is really cool. Plus, seeing D'Onofrio and Foster as a priest and a nun respectively was an odd joy for me, and I thought those were some surprising (in a good way) touches. You should maybe give this a watch. It could be better, but it's decent enough for a rainy day watch.

Chris Weber

Super Reviewer

I hate the phrase 'Coming of age' but until I can think of a better one it will have to do. Of course growing up was never this cool for me and I was an Alter Boy, it was far more awkward. That said, what it does capture, quite brilliantly, is the conflict with hypocrisy that adult life can bring - using animation, bad romance and an angry Nun to symbolise adolescent angst in its many forms and guises. A very pleasant discovery - in the bargain bin no less. A great film, let down by poor marketing.

Anthony Lawrie

Super Reviewer

CAST: Emile Hirsch, Kieran Culkin, Jena Malone, Jodie Foster, Vincent D'Onofrio, Jake Richardson, Tyler Long, Kelvin O'Bryant


SUMMARY: When a gang of eighth-grade Catholic school students (including Kieran Culkin and Emile Hirsch) gets caught drawing an obscene comic book, they seek revenge for their punishment -- and a reputation as school legends -- by planning a prank on a mean, one-legged nun (Jodie Foster).

MY THOUGHTS: "This film had everything in it from hypocrisy, incest, animation, death, and religion. I guess a bit of everything. The film had the feel of the movie 'Stand By Me' when it comes to the four boys relationships. Just really good acting from all the young cast. It makes the movie that much more enjoyable when the acting is good and believable. The story itself is honest and funny. It's also sad. The way Kieran's character is mostly acting out just to get his parents to notice him. Jena Malone's character is seriously disturbed and needs a good therapist. I really felt bad for her, and yet kinda grossed out by what she did to her brother. The ending was unexpected and totally made me cry. The poem he read is what broke me, lol. If you were a rebel in school then you will relate or like this movie. Its definitely worth the watch. Great story and really good acting, especially by Hirsch and Culkin."


Super Reviewer

The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys Quotes

There are no approved quotes yet for this movie.

Discussion Forum

Discuss The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys on our Movie forum!