The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys

Critics 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.



Total Count: 111


Audience Score

User Ratings: 16,390
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Movie Info

Peter Care's debut feature The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys follows a handful of parish school adolescents who try to figure out who they are. Francis Doyle (Emile Hirsch), Tim Sullivan (Kieran Culkin), and their friends struggle against the stultifying repression of their school, personified by Sister Assumpta (Jodie Foster). One of the boys is a talented artist whose drawings lead to animated sequences in the film that were drawn by Spawn creator Todd McFarlane. Vincent D'Onofrio and Jena Malone round out the cast of this film, which was screened at the 2002 Sundance Film Festival.

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Critic Reviews for The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys

All Critics (111) | Top Critics (32)

Audience Reviews for The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys

  • May 20, 2013
    Despite liking the movie, with its solid cast and good characters, there's something about it that keeps it from being really good. I think it's overall a good coming-of-age story but the film's main character, Francis, sort of lacks a certain depth about him to make the film more than what it is. The most interesting character in the entire film ends up being Tim because I do think they do a great job at telling you that Tim's personality and his rebellion really are a product of his home life. They never go into it a lot, but in comparison to Tim, Francis ends up feeling a little dull as a character and his relationship with Margie, outside of the secret, isn't really well-developed, or that interesting, either. And the comic book stuff spliced in at certain points during the movie isn't really that effective. I don't wanna say it takes away from it, as a lot of it does reflect what's going on in the main story, but it doesn't add anything to the movie at all. At least it's well-animated. I also thought that the ending felt a bit exploitative, it certainly makes sense considering what they were trying to do. I don't think it was very melodramatic at all and it leads to Emile Hirsch's best scene in the movie, but it still felt a bit exploitative. I did like the acting, it's definitely a highlight of the film and I like that the film certainly has some insight on teenage life with heart and humor. Still, the movie is just a little disappointing. Not that I had high expectations, but there's just no moment where this film could ever be considered great. This is still a perfectly solid movie, nothing extraordinary here.
    Jesse O Super Reviewer
  • Sep 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.
    Chris W Super Reviewer
  • Aug 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.
    Sarah P Super Reviewer
  • Jan 07, 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.
    Conner R Super Reviewer

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