A refreshing and honest portrayal of adolescent Catholic boys. The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys follows Tim (Kieran Culkin) and Francis (Emile Hirsch) as they engage in aimless vandalism and mockery--not from malice but boredom. Sadly, the theft of a religious icon and a plan to kidnap a cougar result in far more serious consequences than either boy intends. The authenticity of the characters and dialogue make the movie work; both script and performances are genuine and consistently surprising. Jena Malone, as a troubled girl who gets involved with Francis, is particularly good, but the whole cast (which includes Jodie Foster and Vincent D'Onofrio) does excellent work. In capturing both the harm and the good that teenagers can do, The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys transcends the usual rebellious-kids storyline. The movie features animated segments that depict Francis's fantasy life, created by Todd McFarlane (Spawn). --Bret Fetzer
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