The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys Film Details
Overview: A group of Catholic school friends, after being caught drawing an obscene comic book, plan a heist that will outdo their previous prank and make them local legends.
Review: The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys is based on the bildungsroman novel by Chris Furhman, who, unfortunately died of cancer during the revision of his novel, which was later published by a friend. Judging by the last chapter (although it is narrated from the first person point of view of Francis Doyle), I assume that the novel is based on Fuhrman’s own actual childhood experiences and developed into a comic book of the same title. Unfortunately, while both the novel and the movie are quite good, the movie lacks some of the structure as well as more significant, yet “controversial” images than does the film (for obvious reasons on this latter point–they are catering to younger audiences and pre-teen sex doesn’t go over well with your always alert conservative censors). Likewise, the novel, which is set in Savannah circa 1970 and deals with heated issues of racism (and our characters recognition of the fallacies of generalization). It was risqué enough to develop a movie which contains among its characters a young school girl who has not only engaged in an incestial relationship, but also attempted suicide. This is the story of four boys in at Blessed Heart, a Catholic School for Boys. Francis Doyle (Emile Hirsch) and Tim Sullivan (Kieran Culkin) are figures that model Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn (although Francis is ruled by considerably fewer rules than Tom’s Aunt Polly reserved for her own boy). Tim Sullivan is the inspiration for the gang, living the credo that danger and trouble is their only defense against boredom. Partly, their only defense against the absurd rules of society and the meaningless ritual of adults (our character Tim is of the Holden Caufield variety), is a comic book (The Atomic Trinity) which the friends create, which parallels their various coming-of-age experiences with pranks and first love and so forth. Part of the screen time is shared with animated scenes of our comic book heroes at work. Francis and Tim seem to differ on their goals, however. For Tim, his goal is the revolt against Sister Assumpta (Jodi Foster) who embodies most of the absurd rules as head of the Catholic School. For example, she is the one who confiscates Tim’s copy of a book by William Blake (I think it was called ‘The Creation’), and as such, is seen as an unruly censor. Tim is out to defy that absurdity. His character is the bildungsromane type more Francis. His character is much smarter, much more aware of his surroundings. But sadly, it is all he is focused on. As you see in the comic book scenes, he is the hero who is only concerned with bringing down the flaming skull, which is actually Sister Assumpta. Blessed Heart represents everything finds wrong with the world around him. Francis, too, may be disgusted with the hypocrisy of the Catholic teachings and Blessed Heart in general, but his disgust with the world and likewise his concern is Margie Flynn (Jena Malone), his first true love. Flynn is an utterly sad character in a film where you might just expect boyhood pranks on unsuspecting authority. Flynn is a young quiet girl who attempted to kill herself because she thought she was going crazy and hated herself for an incestial relationship she carried on with her brother. Francis, through his real actions and through his comic book hero image, tries to rescue the frail Margie Flynn. She is the girl he is forever in love with, and her frailty may in part be part of the oppression he sees (like Tim). They don’t tell much about her parents or brother in the movie, but in the novel, they are divorced and Donnie Flynn is a real sadistic creep, at least towards Francis and the other boys. Margie Flynn is really a difficult character to endure, particularly for younger audiences, considering the circumstances. The story starts out like another ‘Heaven Help Us’ type (only more intellectual and much funnier) of Catholic School boys run amuck, but the introduction of Margie’s character puts a weird spin about things. I’m not sure that they developed her character enough for this movie, although much of the focus within the Flynn-Doyle relationship was on Francis and not really Margie. Maybe if Emile Hirsch didn’t always act so spaced out all the time, this aspect of the story might’ve been more effective. Meanwhile, when the four boys’s comic book is confiscated by Sister Assumpta, the boys (Tim in particular) get the idea that they’re going to get retaliation on Blessed Heart and, in particular, Sister Assumpta (amongst all other things that they think need revolting against in that William Blake revolutionary sense that Tim abides by) by releasing a panther (in the novel, it was just a bobcat) into the school. By doing so, they would be declared the local legends of danger. This is going to be their mark of importance. This is when each of the boys start questioning their loyalty to this unofficial pact of a crusade for danger. Francis and Tim (the closet of the four friends), too, start questioning just how far they’re willing to go because, their idea of importance changes. For Tim, it’s all or nothing. For Francis, he’s second guessing just how easy (and necessary) such a prank would be and also, is meanwhile, wrapped up in his own little world with Margie Flynn. This is one of those coming-of-age films with young characters who have a heightened sense of self-awareness and such in the style of ‘Stand by Me’ and hell, even ‘Fandango’ and so forth. It’s funny and it’s sad. Overall, it’s a pretty good movie worth catching. Live dangerously!
Country: United States
Duration: 104 min
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Also known as: Chicos de vidas peligrosas,Meninos de Deus,The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys,A Vida Perigosa dos Rapazes do Altar,Pavojingas altoriaus vakinu gyvenimas,Oltári fiúk,Innocent Boys,Forbudt for børn,Symmories anilikon,Училищни игри,Συμμορίες Ανηλίκων,Lost Heaven,Kuoripoikien kosto,Historias fantásticas,イノセント・ボーイズ,Опасные игры,La peligrosa vida de los altar boys,Ministranci,戰慄追殺