The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

    ‘Altar Boys’ far from holy

    While the title may suggest a message film within the depths of a Catholic school, “The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys” is anything but. This coming-of-age film centers on a small group of outcasts experimenting with alcohol, drugs, rebellion and, most of all, sex. However, the steps the film takes to advance toward a forced climax never truly completes the emotional response that the ending demands.

    On the surface, ‘Altar Boys’ comes off as a version of “The Sandlot” with Catholicism instead of baseball and a cougar instead of a Saint Bernard. However, this dark comedy centering on 14-year-olds insists on asking more emotional involvement from the audience.

    The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys
    6 and 8:30 p.m.
    Date: Tonight through Sunday
    Place: Davies Theatre, Davies Center
    Cost: $1

    Francis (Emile Hirsch) and Tim (Kieran Culkin) are two best friends dabbling in the woes of rebellion within the walls of St. Agatha’s Catholic School. As a form of catharsis these boys, with the help of friends Joey (Tyler Long) and Wade (Jake Richardson), draw and envision themselves as superheroes in a comic book called “The Atomic Trinity.” With developed family problems coupled with the almost Nazi dictatorship of Sister Assumpta (Jodie Foster) and hormonal influxes, the boys spend most of their time trying to rid themselves of their personal problems.

    As the main topic of their conversations and thoughts, the altar boys use their limited but growing knowledge of sex to get their minds off school. Francis’ newfound love for fellow classmate Margie Flynn (Jena Malone) drives most of the film in an uncomfortable, and increasingly awkward, love plot. As their mutual interest for each other grows, Francis realizes the problems he and the altar boys share become miniscule and trite compared to hers.

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    In a stint of rebelliousness, the boys (headed by Tim) continue coming up with daring pranks to bite back at the institution they have grown to hate, including stealing a large concrete statue of St. Agatha and trying to relocate a cougar. However, these over-the-top pranks seem to overwhelm the film in an attempt to entertain rather than enlighten.

    Some film analysts believe very firmly the first image appearing on the screen can very often hold the most poignancy and relevance to where the film will go.

    While some films – like “Return of the Secaucus Seven,” where the first image is of a toilet – complicate this theory, others consecrate the theory wonderfully. In ‘Altar Boys,’ Tim and Francis are staring blankly at an electrical post that leaves a convenient crucifix shadow next to them.

    As Tim begins to cut down the post with a chain saw, the inevitable deduction would be these boys are going to bring down the church any way they can. However, the plot never completes, as pranks and elaborate sequences of animation by Todd MacFarlane fill the allotted time. Although, I have to admit, MacFarlane’s animation breaks are fantastic.

    Complicating the film even further, characters like Foster’s Sister Assumpta and Vincent D’Onofrio’s Father Casey are painted as one-dimensional and tertiary. Both underdeveloped characters always have inspired looks on their faces that seem to suggest something meaningful about to be said; yet, nothing ever leaves their mouths.

    With some funny lines and double entendres, ‘Altar Boys’ has great intentions from Chris Fuhrman’s book of the same name, but never puts in the last puzzle piece.

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    ‘Altar Boys’ far from holy