The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys

Watch The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys

"Forgive me father, for I am 14."
  • R
  • 2002
  • 1 hr 44 min
  • 6.9  (14,188)
  • 69

The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys is a thought-provoking coming-of-age drama released in 2002. Directed by Peter Care, the movie is based on a novel by Chris Fuhrman. Set in the 1970s, the film stars a talented ensemble cast including Kieran Culkin, Jena Malone, Emile Hirsch, and Vincent D’Onofrio among others. The movie revolves around a group of four teenage friends - Tim Sullivan (Kieran Culkin), Francis Doyle (Emile Hirsch), Margie Flynn (Jena Malone), and Wade Scalisi (Jake Richardson). All of them study in a Catholic school, where they are known to be notorious and rebellious. They spend their leisure time drawing comic book characters, playing pranks on the nuns, and share a love for mischief.

Francis, the most talented artist among the friends, draws comic-strips that reflect their adventurous lives. The comic emerges as a metaphor for their attempts to escape the school's strict rules and explore the complexities of adolescence. The boys' adventures are interrupted by their encounters with a tyrannical priest, Father Casey (Vincent D'Onofrio), who repeatedly subjects Francis to public humiliations in front of the whole school.

As the story progresses, the friends' struggle with their own inner demons - Tim with his broken family and unrequited love for Margie, Francis with the death of his younger brother, and Wade with the insecurities of adolescent masculinity, adds depth to the story. Despite their problems, the friends' bond grows stronger as they band together to challenge Father Casey, with the comic-strip providing the outlet for their creative rebellion.

The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys has a haunting visual style that accentuates the grittiness of the story. The movie is set in the grim suburbs of Savannah, Georgia, and has an atmospheric soundtrack composed by the Indie rock artist, Michael Brook. The camera work, editing, and use of colors cut between reality and the comic book world, creating a sense of surrealism, reflecting the characters' literary ambitions.

The movie's main strength, however, lies in the acting performances of the young cast, in particular, Kieran Culkin, who portrays Tim's vulnerability and longing for love with remarkable subtlety. His interactions with Jena Malone's character, Margie, are natural, emotive, and bring depth to the film.

Emile Hirsch's portrayal of Francis, on the other hand, is a standout performance. He brings the right balance of vulnerability and rebelliousness, depicting a character that is both tragic and admirable. Malone plays Margie with a sense of innocence that belies her inner strength, while Jake Richardson's Wade aptly depicts the typical male insecurity of puberty.

However, the standout performance is by Vincent D'Onofrio, who plays the depraved and abusive Father Casey. D'Onofrio's portrayal of the priest is chilling, and he brings a sense of menace and cruelty that is both effective and heartbreaking. Casey embodies the darkness of institutional abuse, and D'Onofrio portrays the character with remarkable nuance.

The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys is not just a story about teenage rebellion but a poignant story of loss, abuse, and personal growth. It deftly tackles complex themes such as Catholicism, mental illness, and toxic masculinity. The film’s treatment of Catholicism is particularly interesting, appearing neither reverential nor dismissive of the faith it interrogates the shortcomings of the Church during the 1970s.

In conclusion, The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys is a powerful and must-watch drama that explores the difficulties of adolescence, the complicated bond of friendships, and the power of creativity. It features a talented cast, an atmospheric visual style and a beautifully crafted narrative that speaks to the human experience beyond their teenage years.

The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys is a 2002 comedy with a runtime of 1 hour and 44 minutes. It has received mostly positive reviews from critics and viewers, who have given it an IMDb score of 6.9 and a MetaScore of 69.

The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys
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  • Release Date
  • MPAA Rating
  • Runtime
    1 hr 44 min
  • Language
  • IMDB Rating
    6.9  (14,188)
  • Metascore