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The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys Review

Other Critics provided by

Critics scores range from 0 to 100, with higher scores indicating more favorable reviews.

  • 4.0

    out of 100

    Generally favorable reviews
    based on a weighted average of all
    critic review scores.

  • 100

    out of 100

    Wall Street Journal Joe Morgenstern

    Essentially a coming-of-age story set in working-class North Carolina in the 1970s. But it's so startlingly original that it transcends the genre. This is a wonderful film, from puckish start to momentous finish.

  • 58

    out of 100

    Entertainment Weekly Owen Gleiberman

    It's all way too heavy-handed, though nicely acted by Hirsch, Culkin, and, especially, Jena Malone.

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For Families provided by Common Sense Media

not for kids

Coming-of-age film only for those already of age.

What Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this film is not for kids. The protagonists are surrounded by difficult situations (one has alcoholic parents and is humiliated in school, another is a victim of an older brother's sexual abuse, a girl is suicidal and scars on her wrists are shown), and lack of parental involvement leads to substance abuse of all types, as well as copious amounts of swearing. Young teens pull dangerous pranks (such as cutting down telephone poles with chainsaws), break into wildlife parks and abandoned houses, and blatantly flout authority figures. These characters are rarely punished, and expulsion is treated lightly. Although characters draw obscene pictures and speak graphically about sex, their real-world experience is very limited, and little more than making out and touching above the waist is depicted onscreen. Animated sequences include a lot of comic book violence, and there is a deadly mauling by a mountain lion. There are also several conversations about masturbation.

  • Families can talk about the effect that Margie's secret has on those who know it. How does Sister Assumpta affect the boys? How does she change throughout the movie? How are adults portrayed in the film? How do the characters treat consequences? How does Tim's background affect the way that he sees the world? What is the importance of William Blake's poetry in the film? What does it mean to be a "dangerous thinker"? What is the point of Tim's 'trick' in the end? What does the film say about friendship? Forgiveness?

The good stuff
  • message true-1

    Messages: These characters are not to be taken as role models by anyone, but they're not necessarily bad people.

What to watch for
  • violence false5

    Violence: Lots of animated violence, two fist fights, and one character is mauled to death by a mountain lion.

  • sex false5

    Sex: Very frank sexual discussion, innuendo, and some obscene drawings. Characters engage in little more than making out and touching above the waist. One character deals with sexual abuse by an older brother.

  • language false5

    Language: Lots of swearing, sexual innuendo, etc.

  • drugsalcoholtobacco false5

    Drinking, drugs and smoking: Young boys (14) drink without consequences, smoke, and do drugs.