The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys Reviews

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Super Reviewer
½ September 17, 2011
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.
Super Reviewer
July 20, 2009
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
January 7, 2010
A movie about tweens that can't be seen by tweens, completely useless. I liked the cast and their were some good early performances from Kieren Culkin and Emile Hirsch, but it was just way too childish a movie. Instead of being original, it was just really corny and pointless.
Super Reviewer
May 13, 2008
Refreshing film about best friends who dream of living out their lives like the comic books they're obsessed with. Great acting from all involved, especially D'Onofrio, who plays the coolest priest in history.
Super Reviewer
July 17, 2007
This movie utilizes many vehicles to convey its messages. Children, the church, animation, death, incest, hypocrisy...All of this is tied into a coming of age story focusing primarily on two boys and one girl. It shows the struggles that we go through in those formative stages in order to simply be and the pressures and moral quandaries that we all deal with personified in a young person's world. The characters are aspiring comic book artists and many times the movie breaks into extended animated scenes. While these can be fun to watch (or distracting to some as it was for my wife) they are an integral part of the film. Each animated vignette carefully describes the current mindset of each character within and allows the viewer to see the mind at work played out through an animated avatar. This movie does have some comedic moments that will make you laugh out loud. Equally there are more moments that will make you reflect and perhaps even become a bit saddened at times. It is a sleeper gem. Enjoy
Super Reviewer
½ February 27, 2007
This is a pretty good flick.
Super Reviewer
½ February 10, 2007
This is a cute movie that, while it never reaches the realm of excellence, is a very enjoyable ride - for the most part. Its a story about a group of Catholic boys and their struggle with the oppressive authority figure(s) hanging over their heads. One of the main things I drew from it though was how extreme their actions were, when it wasn't called for - what happens to Kieran Culkin's character is a prime example of this. As such this serves as a theater for the folly of youth, and it definitely works in that way. There are some very interesting ideas at work here - for example the parallel narrative of the comic-book heroes drawn by the main character (in cartoon form alongside and reflecting the main narrative). That part of it really separated this from any other movie, though I'm not sure how much it added in the long run. There were some neat camera tricks used, as well. The one thing that was abundantly clear after watching this movie was that it is made for a specific age group or generation - even at age 20 I found it hard to relate to the teenage characters. However, its still a good movie with some good acting (Vincent D'Onofrio represent! even though he's underused), and I recommend watching it.
Super Reviewer
March 23, 2006
If you were an altar boy, you can't miss this one. We were a band of holy delinquents. And even if you weren't an altar boy, this is well worth seeing. Anime fans may like this movie too.
Super Reviewer
½ November 1, 2007
An excellent movie, especially with a young cast and first time director! The mixture of animation and real life was really cool. Definatly a great movie!
Super Reviewer
½ August 17, 2011
I effing LOVED this movie! I can't really describe what exactly about it I love so much...the actors were excellent, the story was sweet and tragic, and it ended as it should have.
Super Reviewer
½ November 27, 2008
Loved the comic book feature within the film. It's hard to say exactly why I liked it, it's one of those movies where you have to see it for yourself.
Super Reviewer
½ May 28, 2008
Kind of a downer but pretty good.
Super Reviewer
April 1, 2008
I'm going to go wild and give this movie 5 stars, which according to some people, I do ALL THE TIME. But honestly, TDLOAB deserves it. Having heard nothing about it, I was suprised by how good it actually was. It was well structured and paced - it opened with a great first scene, it got to the point quickly and didn't linger unneccesarily on any scenes, and it treated the audience as intelligent. The acting was also first rate - Jodie Foster is always good, but the stand-outs were Hirsch, Malone (who played a young Jo Fo in the film Contact), and Culkin - definitely some of the best young actors around today. If I felt like it, I could criticise the ending, but I'd rather focus on the film's merits here. Go see this movie. You can thank me later.
½ April 21, 2013
The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys (2002) -- [7.0] -- Emile Hirsch and Kieran Culkin put in great performances in this odd coming-of-age film about best friends who are constantly rebelling against their Catholic school teacher, a one-legged nun played by Jodie Foster. I like that the characters, even Foster's antagonistic one, aren't one-sided. The film suggests the boys are out of control, but also that they have plenty to rebel against. I expected a moral judgment to be made one way or the other by the time the movie ended, but despite a hefty dramatic turn in act three, the film really isn't interested in passing judgment. The film may leave you tonally and thematically confounded, or you might find it refreshing. Jena Malone and Vincent D'Onofrio co-star, and Todd McFarlane brings the characters' comic book creations to life in several animated sequences.
August 3, 2012
1/4/03 - The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys was a well done coming of age / loss of innocence story about catholic school kids in the 70s. It was pretty funny in places and didn't hold anything back. It reminded me of a grittier, more messed up Stand By Me.
December 3, 2011
If I had seen this in 2002, I think my mind would have been blown to smithereens. So my apologies to Peter Care for waiting until this movie has become bettered in nearly every way by other films. The solid cast is interesting--from the always decadent Jena Malone, to the too-old-for-his-role-but-who-cares Culkin bro, to even horribly-awkward-in-this-movie-Jodie Foster-but-I-guess-that's-a-nun-fer-ya.

Mostly ...Alter Boys feels like it is schlocking around trying to be an edgy Hallmark Channel after-school, anti-Catholic special.
½ July 25, 2009
Based on the amazing novel, Hirsch and Culkin are captivating as two rebellious teenagers with a plan...that goes horribly wrong.
July 22, 2009
Interestingly told.

It gets bonus points for Vincent D'Onofrio and Kieran Culkin's awesome acting skills.
½ June 2, 2009
If you don't mind the artsy fartsy at all, it's really good. Maybe I like it more because they are a bunch of Catholic school kids acting out at school.
January 22, 2009
Emile Hirsch, one of my favorite actors, has his coming out party in this film. Not to mention brilliant performances from Kieran Culkin and Jodie Foster. A really fun, yet dramatic story.
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