The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys
Directed by Peter Care
Starring Jodie Foster, Kieran Culkin, Emile Hirsch
You’re 14. You’re Catholic. You’re bored. Why not put a live cougar in Sister Assumpta’s (Jodie Foster) office? These are the thoughts that go through your mind in a small town. Sure, there are technical problems; Tim Sullivan (Kieran Culkin) realizes that. But with the help of Francis Doyle (Emile Hirsch), the plan just might fly. A old pulley leads to an early experiment — snag the statue of St. Agatha from the tower of Immaculate Conception and take her smoking and drinking and hanging with your buddies. Then, a potion of Nyquil and Angel Dust (could you really get those in 1962?) in a K-Mart (weren’t they still Kresge’s back then?) blow gun (those I KNOW you could get) and it’s sleepy time for kitty. Francis isn’t paying attention to the job at hand, he’s found the joys of Margie Flynn (Jena Malone), an equally troubled girl who sees ghosts and gives good tongue. With one cougar down and the loading crew working to pick up the stoned kitty, a glaring problem arises. Seems cougars come in pairs, and they take care of their own. That’s all it takes to permanently cure Tim’s boredom, and Francis reads the easy eulogy from Blake, “Tiger Tiger Burning Bright.”
Ah, but the animation! THAT’S the reason to see this otherwise overwrought coming of age flick. Tim and Francis and their buddies are decent cartoonists, and there’s a well-done series of fantasy sequences playing in Francis’s mind. He and his buddies become Captain Ass Kicker, The Screw, and a few other superheroes on a quest to rescue the kingdom of Sorcerella. Yeah, it’s over-hormonalized teen fantasy, but isn’t that the best kind? The heroes fight of the evil forces of Nunzilla and her priestly minions, eventually rescuing the kingdom. Meanwhile, in the real world, such as that may exist, the storyboards fall into the hands of Sister Assumpta, who is not amused. And she doesn’t even know about the cougar yet.
The animation covers a lot of sins — bad editing, a number of apparent anachronisms, and some embarrassingly long make-out scenes. Sure, it’s fun when you’re up to bat, but watching it? Sheesh, give us a break. Oh, yeah, Jodie Foster financed and starred in this exercise in testosterone, but her performance isn’t likely to convince anyone to take a pot shot at the old Dubya. But the animation… now that’s a different thing!