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The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys
DVD disk
Oct 8, 2004 By: Scott Weinberg
The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys order
Director:
Peter Care

Actors:
Emile Hirsch
Kiearan Culkin
Jenna Malone

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
A coming-of-age tale set in the late 1970s, in which a collection of wise-ass Catholic School students play a few pranks, irritate a handful of authority figures, talk about sex, and learn a few valuable life lessons.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
Though its an engaging and extremely well-acted movie, THE DANGEROUS LIVES OF ALTAR BOYS suffers from being a bit too familiar. Anyone whos seen flicks like STAND BY ME, DEAD POET'S SOCIETY or even HEAVEN HELP US will catch a few familiar themes, although this film certainly doesnt seem like a retread. (There are only so many cinematic trips back to the 70s one can make before growing weary of the gimmick) If the movie suffers in one noticeable aspect, its that of simple tone. One scene plays like low-key comedy, the next is almost jarringly dramatic, etc. The four friends in the film are obsessed with comic books, so this also gives director Peter Care an opportunity to wedge some rather cool (if a bit incongruous) animated sequences amidst the more traditional narrative. (Comic fans take note: the animated bits come courtesy of modern legend Todd McFarlane!)

The cast consistently elevates the mildly familiar proceedings, with the two young leads as the clear standouts. (Veterans like Jodie Foster and Vincent DOnofrio offer great work in supporting roles as well) Emile Hirsch is a name you may not be familiar with, but if his turn here is any indication of his skill you can expect to hear his name again soon. Kieran Culkin is nothing short of a revelation (amazing that someone from this gene pool actually has some acting talent), and young cutie Jena Malone delivers a wounded performance that capably holds the flick together. Best suited for those who can recall their stifling and intense Catholic School education from back in the day, THE DANGEROUS LIVES OF ALTAR BOYS is certainly a worthwhile way to spend 90-some minutes. Despite a few solid laughs, a couple of effective remembrances, and a finale that strives for more drama than the film can capably support the movie definitely deserves a look.
THE EXTRAS
Columbia/Tri-Star Home Video has pulled out all the stops on this well-received indie flick. Of most interest is the full-length audio commentary with director Peter Care and screenwriter Jeff Stockwell. The pair spend a lot of time praising this person and that, though there are some interesting tidbits strewn throughout, many of which deal with divergences from the source novel. Fans of the flick will absolutely enjoy this track, while those unenthused with the feature should logically steer clear.

Another cool inclusion is the Animated Scenes Collection, which collates all the comic book bits into one handy package. These scenes are offered with or without audio commentary by animator Todd McFarlane. Anatomy of a Scene comes courtesy of The Sundance Channel and delivers a sequence in rehearsal form. But thats not nearly all! Theres a whole boatload of little extras yet to discover! Production Notes, Cast and Crew Bios/Interviews, Deleted Scenes, theatrical trailers, TV spots, and a trailer gallery! CTHV can never be accused of short-changing their little flicks, and fans of the movie should consider this DVD an absolute must-own.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
Perhaps its because I expected to like the movie more than I did, that I found it a mild disappointment. Still, its easily worthy of a recommendation and the DVD treatment these Altar Boys have been afforded is nothing short of heavenly.
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