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Movie Review:Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys

Story: When we were kids my sister and I had a million comic books. I remember we mostly read the Archie, Little Lulu and the Nancy and Sluggo series. When we visited our two boy cousins I had a chance to look at their comic book collection which mostly included Tales From the Crypt and Super Heroes. It was a whole other world -- the world of boys.

This film is about boys too - comic books. It is charming, even paced and un-sappy. It returned me to my childhood, even though I am not Catholic, never knew an altar boy or ever uttered a Hail Mary. This film gives us other kids a special look into the world of parochial schools during the 70's. (I often wondered what the few Catholic kids that attended my local school, PS 222 did, when they left school for released time on Wednesday afternoons at 2 to study catechism.) Some of my closest friends these days are Catholic (lapsed or otherwise) and I found myself thinking about them and their education through the parochial school system while watching this little gem of a film.

From the novel by the late Chris Fuhrman, first time feature film director Peter Care (and he does take care) handles the subject of 14 year old boys beautifully. Seen from a child's point of view, the world of adults is depicted in stark, oppressive contrast to the fluid, imaginative world of children. A nice blend of animation and reality adds a rounded touch to the story. The story deals with real problems that kids have when at that awkward age. It is handled sensitively, at times with great humor and the characters avoid the cartoon pitfalls that film makers often have these types of roles fall into. I recommend this film highly to all.

Acting: Kieran Culkin (The Cider House Rules) is terrific as the most troubled youth. Young, newcomer Emile Hirsch has quite a career ahead of him as well. Jena Malone (Life as a House) is very appealing as the troubled young girl. Jodie Foster scared me as the wacko Nun and Vincent D'Onofrio as the priest looked mostly like he was stoned.

Critters: Two cougars, one kitty and a dog.

Food: Very little food but some interesting mixtures of alcoholic teenage experimental beverages

Visual Art: Some terrific period art pieces in the various homes.

Blatant Product Placement: Marvel and DC Comics

Soundtrack: Inspired

Opening Titles: Creative

Theater Audience: Ten guys and me. I surmised they were all ex-altar boys.

Quirky Meter: 3

Squirm Scale: 4 -I always squirm when there are scenes with animals whose fate is uncertain.

Predictability Level: There were a few surprises

Tissue Usage: One

Oscar Worthy: No

Nit Picking: No nits to pick.

Big Screen or Rental: Big Screen for sure. Jodie Foster's filmography spans 30 years. Here are some of my favorites for rental ideas: The Silence of the Lambs, The Accused, The Hotel New Hampshire, The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane, Taxi Driver and Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore.

Length: Two hours