The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys

Rated NR

Director Peter Care coaxes some engagingly naturalistic performances from young actors Emile Hirsch and Kieran Culkin, who play Francis and Tim, imaginative yet mischievous Catholic schoolboys in a 1970s small town. Jodie Foster is the one-legged Sister Assumpta, a strict disciplinarian who becomes the villain Nunzilla in a comic book created by Francis and Tim. As the severe nun, Foster gives a performance that, though mannered, avoids campiness, which makes it that much more menacing. Vincent D’Onofrio (Law & Order: Criminal Intent), a brilliant actor who usually plays tough-guy cops and murderous psychos, brings a contemplative mood to his portrayal of Father Casey, and the immensely talented, still-teen-age actress Jena Malone shows fascinating layers of emotion as the subject of Francis’ first romantic longings. If you enjoyed Michael Chabon’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, the animated comic-book sequences, created by Spawn comic-book artist Todd McFarlane, will have special appeal.

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