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Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys

The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys

4.5 4
Director: Peter Care

Cast: Kieran Culkin, Jena Malone, Emile Hirsch


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The Dangerous Lives Of Alter Boys, a title that certainly didn't bring it any box office success, probably will find a longer life on home video. The image, framed at 1.85:1 is exceptionally good for an independent production. Moments of dust show initially, but fortunately they brief and don't show through the majority of the film. Colors for the narrative,


The Dangerous Lives Of Alter Boys, a title that certainly didn't bring it any box office success, probably will find a longer life on home video. The image, framed at 1.85:1 is exceptionally good for an independent production. Moments of dust show initially, but fortunately they brief and don't show through the majority of the film. Colors for the narrative, thought relatively muted, are still consistent and solid. On the other hand, the animated sequences, which highlight the emotional situations of the cast, are very colorful, with strong lines excellent detail. The weakest element of this DVD is the soundtrack. The English 5.1 Dolby Digital track is strong up front, but that lack of any separation, including any use of the surrounds, is unfortunate. A real plus for this title is the number of supplements. Up first is a commentary track from director Peter Care and screenwriter Jeff Stockwell. Next up is a very nice half hour "Anatomy Of A Scene" from the Sundance Channel. Here they take an in-depth look at a single scene, including interviews from the crew. The five minute featurette doesn't hold up nearly as well. It's nothing more than standard fluff material, adding little to the overall understanding of the film. In addition are some interviews with the cast, extended scenes, and deleted material, plus televisions spots, theatrical trailers from this film and others such as Panic Room (an odd inclusion for this kind of film, other than both star Jodi Foster). Finally, and fun to watch, is all of the animated scenes strung together, with or without commentary from animation supervisor Todd McFarlane. Though the coming-of-age formula is nothing new, this film may surprise many, especially since so few ever heard of it.

Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Ed Hulse
No, this isn't the tawdry, torn-from-the-headlines melodrama its title suggests. Dangerous Lives is actually one of the 2002's most surprising little movies -- a sensitive, tragicomic, and thoroughly enjoyable coming-of-age story set in a predominantly Irish-Catholic parochial school during the 1970s. Its dual protagonists are mischievous students Tim Sullivan (Kieran Culkin) and Francis Doyle (Emile Hirsch), whose rebellion against stern authority figures Sister Assumpta (Jodie Foster) and Father Casey (Vincent D'Onofrio) initially takes the form of a homemade and somewhat pornographic comic book they entitle "The Atomic Trinity." When their artistic endeavor is confiscated, the young teens plan a caper that will make them legendary -- if it doesn't backfire and cause more harm than intended. As helmed by veteran music-video director Peter Care, Lives is just a wee bit schizophrenic: While the most dazzling sequences are dynamic animated interludes (produced by Spawn creator Todd McFarlane) bringing the boys' comic-book fantasies to life, Care also crafts scenes of almost unutterable poignancy, including one that involves Francis and his erstwhile girlfriend (the radiant, soulful Jena Malone). Foster, who co-produced, seems almost laughably miscast as the peg-legged nun who persecutes her hell-raising young charges, but her intensity in the role is disarming, and Sister Assumpta emerges as one of her most memorable characterizations. Virtually unassailable in regard to setting, period, and character, this modest but engrossing film will yield new pleasures with each viewing at home. The DVD sports a commentary by Care and screenwriter Jeff Stockwell, along with a collection of the animated sequences (discussed by McFarlane), a Sundance Channel "Anatomy of a Scene" featurette, deleted scenes, cast and filmmaker interviews, and a gallery of concept drawings for the animated scenes.
All Movie Guide - Josh Ralske
The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys throws together live action and animation, lighthearted teen romance and serious family trauma, and raucous comedy and heavy, melodramatic tragedy. It's an intriguing mixture that doesn't quite gel. The film is at its best when it focuses on the simple joys of teens hanging out. In showing the four altar boys of the title fine-tuning their comic book characters or just thinking up more elaborate ways to get into trouble, director Peter Care and screenwriters Jeff Stockwell and Michael Petroni, abetted by a talented young cast, capture the perfect naturalistic tone. This is also true of the scenes in which Francis (Emile Hirsch) and Margie (Jena Malone) timidly explore their budding romance. The animation sequences by Todd McFarlane (Spawn) are sometimes jarringly bombastic, but they do capture a distinctly adolescent penchant for turning the real troubles of the world into dark, but manageable fantasy. The filmmakers chose to discard novelist Chris Fuhrman's specificity about the locale (the book takes place in Savannah), presumably to make the story more universal. This was a blunder, as the vagueness about where and when the film is set makes it less effective storytelling. There's also an awkwardness in the way the film will veer suddenly into tragedy, and some viewers will find the boys' exploits, particularly in the film's dramatic climax, more than a little hard to swallow. But the film is still fairly strong. Cinematographer Lance Acord (Buffalo 66, Being John Malkovich) does good work. Hirsch, Malone, and Kieran Culkin deliver creditable performances, and Jodie Foster and Vincent D'Onofrio lend excellent support.
Village Voice - J. Hoberman
The gentle comic treatment of adolescent sturm und drang should please fans of Chris Fuhrman's posthumously published cult novel.
New York Times
This bracingly truthful antidote to Hollywood teenage movies that slather Clearasil over the blemishes of youth captures the combustible mixture of a chafing inner loneliness and desperate grandiosity that tend to characterize puberty. Stephen Holden
Los Angeles Times
There's a streak of prankishness in the boys that goes pretty far, yet so rich and engaging is this film and its people that we never lose sympathy for them. Kevin Thomas

Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Sony Pictures
Region Code:
[Wide Screen]
[Dolby Digital Stereo, Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround]

Special Features

Closed Caption; Letterbox version; English Dolby Digital 5.1 and Stereo Surround; Spanish subtitles; Audio commentary with director Peter Care and screenwriter Jeff Stockwell; Animated scenes collection; Audio commentary of animated scenes with animation producer Todd McFarlane; Anatomy of a scene courtesy of the sundance channel; Production notes; Cast & filmmaker bios; Featurette; Deleted scenes; Interview with cast and filmmakers; Theatrical trailer; TV spots; DVD-ROM content; Animation illustrations; Trailer gallery; Interactive menus; Scene selections

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Kieran Culkin Tim Sullivan
Jena Malone Margie Flynn
Emile Hirsch Francis Doyle
Vincent D'Onofrio Father Casey
Jodie Foster Sister Assumpta
Jake Richardson Wade
Tyler Long Joey Scalisi
Kelvin O'Bryant Craig Dockery

Technical Credits
Peter Care Director
Lance Acord Cinematographer
Marco Beltrami Score Composer
Scott Cameron Asst. Director
Pen Densham Executive Producer
Jodie Foster Producer
Marie France Costumes/Costume Designer
Tim Harbert Co-producer
Joshua Homme Score Composer
David A. Jones Executive Producer
Graham King Executive Producer
Meg LeFauve Producer
Laray Mayfield Casting
Todd McFarlane Animator
Chris Peppe Editor
Michael Petroni Screenwriter
Gideon Ponte Production Designer
Carl Rudisill Sound/Sound Designer
Jay Shapiro Producer
Jeff Stockwell Screenwriter
John K. Watson Executive Producer

Scene Index

Side #1 --
1. Opening Credits [9:09]
2. Setting Up a Friend [4:13]
3. Character Inspiration [6:39]
4. The Animal Forest [3:24]
5. The Hang Out [3:37]
6. First Kiss [5:56]
7. Moving St. Agatha [5:08]
8. Silent Suffering [8:37]
9. Keeping Secrets [6:45]
10. Friendly Quarrel [3:45]
11. Downward Spiral [7:53]
12. Believing in Ghosts [6:27]
13. Saving Sorcerella [5:10]
14. The Truth [4:09]
15. Think Like Cougars [3:37]
16. Serious Trouble [6:36]
17. Consequences [4:53]
18. The Church [1:01]
19. The Adventures of Skeleton Boy [1:05]
20. End Credits [6:11]


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The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved this movie, I fell in love with it when I first watched it, it's not like every other teen movie and I cant wait to read the book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thought the movie was funny and great! I really liked Emile Hirsch in this movie. HE was really good! and cute! I really liked Kieran Culckan to he was good! EMILE HIRSCH KEEP UP THE AWESOME JOB YOU LITTEL CUTIE!!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
The animation was great-and the movie was fairly entertaining-Emile Hirsch and Kieran Culkin and Jodie Foster all do a good job in this movie-3 cheers for newcomer Hirsch!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved this movie. Everyone in it is great. This movie pulled every emotion out of me. I was jealous, I laughed, I cried. I highly recommend it.