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The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys (Special Edition)

4.1 out of 5 stars 59 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

One of the most critically acclaimed films of the year, THE DANGEROUS LIVES OF ALTAR BOYS is a movie experience you won't forget. Tim (Kieran Culkin) and Francis (Emile Hirsch) are best friends, doing their best to cause trouble without getting caught. Under the watchful eye of Sister Assumpta (Jodie Foster), the boys plot to unleash the ultimate prank, involving a man-eating cougar, their school's statue and a lot of cough medicine. While the boys imagine their exploits in a comic book called The Atomic Trinity, Francis begins his growth to adulthood with Catholic schoolgirl Margie Flynn (Jena Malone). Growing up is never easy, but it's never boring either.

Special Features

  • Anatomy of a scene courtesy of the Sundance Channel
  • Featurette
  • Deleted scenes
  • Interviews with cast and filmmakers
  • Animation illustrations
  • DVD-ROM content

Product Details

  • Actors: Macaulay Culkin, Jena Malone, Jodie Foster, Vincent D'Onofrio, Emile Hirsch
  • Directors: Peter Care
  • Producers: Jodie Foster, Tim Harbert
  • Format: Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, Letterboxed, NTSC, Special Edition, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo), English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: Spanish
  • Region: Region 1 encoding (US and Canada only)
    Some Region 1 DVDs may contain Regional Coding Enhancement (RCE). Some, but not all, of our international customers have had problems playing these enhanced discs on what are called "region-free" DVD players. For more information on RCE, click .
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: November 5, 2002
  • Run Time: 104 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (59 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00006JMQ4
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #61,219 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys (Special Edition)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I'm not Catholic nor a teen, but I found this movie very interesting and entertaining. The interaction between all the kids was pretty real and the dialog did not seem juvenile.

Although not normally a fan of animation, that portion worked OK in this movie because it was the outward expression of the kids' imagination.

Of the 7 primary actors, Jodie Foster had the weakest character as "nunzilla". Perhaps it was just the nature of the character. Vincent D'Onofrio was entertaining as the smoking, swearing priest (and apparently in the book he was a womanizer, too.) The 4 boys were all pretty good, but Jena Malone probably had the toughest role as the girl with a secret, and she was very good.

The whole cougar plot-point was a bit much, and the dog scene came from nowhere, but the rest was very satisfying.

The extras on the DVD were good, too.

P.S. Originally I could not get this DVD to play in "widescreen". Sony said it was a known encoding problem and to change the DVD player setup for TV to "normal letterbox" instead of "normal pan/scan". Worked like a charm.
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Format: DVD
Interesting theme: a group of four boys who go to a Catholic school are tired of squirming under the unflinching tyranny of Nun-zilla, their rigorous nun played by Jodie Foster.

With whom they cope by expressing their frustrations through comic-book sketches and imagining themselves as superheroes. The film uses this excuse to smoosh in some fascinating animation sequences illustrating emotional aspects of the story through the eyes of these kids.

This includes several sub-plots and sub-sub-plots: first romances, coming of age, friendship, control versus freedom, even hints of touchy issues like pedophilia (although no, there is nothing creepy actually manifested), etc.

The characters are convincing, and the performances are quite taut all round, so I've had a hard time putting an exact pulse on what the problem is with Altar Boys, because I liked many of the big picture things about it. Perhaps the film took off in too many directions at once. In bringing up all these themes and tropes, several topics are introduced and then frittered away for lack of time. Others are dwelled upon longer than they should have.

Yet, on the whole, Altar Boys works well as a well-done tale of baffled adolescents for whom imagination is not merely a dangerous diversion feared by conservative religious folk, but a veritable cathartic tool.

One minor annoyance with the DVD: the sound of dialogue is about 2 million decibels lower than the sound of the soundtrack that accompanies the animation interludes.

Recommended rental.
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Format: DVD
“The Dangerous Lives of Alter Boys” is an odd movie for several reasons. It mixes animation with live action, and it is the antithesis of the typical American movie about teenagers. These characters deal with sex and drugs more like very young adults than overgrown kids, While this viewpoint may be a little surprising to some viewers, it makes these teens more believable and memorable.
Tim and Francis [Kieran Culkin and Emile Hirsch] are best friends. Growing up in a small, Middle American city, They attend a Catholic school and act as alter boys at the local cathedral. Bright, rebellious and bored, they are constantly looking for ways to get into trouble. With other friends, they create a comic book called the Atomic Trinity. The book’s heroes are their alter egos, and the villain is modeled after the school’s dreaded Sister Assumpta [Jodie Foster]. When the Sister discovers the book, which is quite sacrilegious, there is hell to pay. Like all good rebels, the boys vow revenge. Meanwhile, Francis falls in love with Margie Flynn [Jena Malone], a girl with a terrible secret which will exact a terrible toll on Francis and Tim’s friendship.
Weaknesses in the script mar an otherwise interesting coming-of-age tale. In particular, the animation sequences get in the way of the narrative towards the end. While they vividly illustrate the boys’ fantasy world, they would have been more effective had they been briefer and more to the point.
A highlight is the young cast. Culkin, Hirsch and Malone are three of the best teenage actors around, and it is treat to see them together in the same movie.
While it rarely reaches the heights to which it aspires dramatically, “The Dangerous Lives of Alter Boys” is one of the better recent movies about young people and their problems. [NOTE: The movie’s title is from the cult novel on which it is based. It has nothing to do with the sex scandal currently rocking the Catholic Church.]
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By R. Maynard on November 26, 2002
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
This is a film adaptation of Chris Furhman's novel portraying the pubescent years of boys and girls in a Catholic grammar school. Wow! Talk about contradictory and opposing forces, this film hits you right between the eyes. Produced by Jodie Foster and Meg Lefauve who seek projects that push for a universal truth, this production certainly doesn't disappoint. It's a tender love affair underlying the bottled energy, hormone driven youngsters, looking to unleash on a world not yet known to them.
A nun, Sister Assumpta (Jodie Foster), in her unswerving dedication, tries to convince her pupils that denial and self-discipline here on earth, assures their divine salvation. The boys see her as a fiendish Church authority and create a comic book that defiles her and the church. Animated sequences of their comic book art are shown that reveals the boys' perception of their own lives. This provides an ingenious touch of insight into their thought processes. The girls are quieter, but their emotions run no less deeply; just in a different way. One of them, Margie (Jenna Malone), has a dark secret that she dares not reveal, but feels she must when she falls in love with Francis (Emile Hirsch).
It is scary, fascinating, disturbing, wonderful, and an inescapable peek into reality, and the casting and acting are incredible; it's as good as it gets. Be sure to see this'll never forget it.
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