The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys (2002) — Bad book, worse movie

“Hey, it’s the altar boys. Here to get altered?”

DnaError’s rating: Snore.

DnaError’s review: “I hate John Knowles.” When Lisa Simpson said this line, thousands of high schoolers agreed. John Knowles’ “A Separate Peace” is inflicted on students year-round across the country. His dense, chintzy prose (masking a weak story) surrounds hurredly drawn characters, labored metaphors, and huge stinking mounds of pretension and “meaning.” It’s enough to make a person never want to read again. Literature classes are full of books like “A Separate Peace”, books like “The Dangerous Lives Of Alter Boys”, heavy-handed, gauzy treatments of boyhood and innocents marked by jarring attempts at profundity. They make for bad reading and even worse movies.

This movie adaptation is a sloppy affair. We aren’t given many character motives and even little less in way of background or characterization. The plot lists along from point to absurd point, pausing for drawn out scenes of boyhood innocence before randomly shooting along. There is no attempt to make these characters likable, relatable or even make them KNOWN to us in any way.

The director appears to have been a fan of the book, and assumes everyone else is as well, which dispels the need to — for example — tell us the character’s names. The plot, what little there is, stems from a device so absurd to defies explanation. Blake’s poetry factors in too, bad sign when a movie has to crib from someone else to make their point for them. The movie’s plot is warped around a (very) over-literal interpretation of a Blake line. I don’t want to give it away, but I don’t think that when Blake mentioned a tiger burning bright, he didn’t mean an ACTUAL tiger.

Its poor attempts at poetry that mar the movie more then anything. Every significant scene is telegraphed from a mile away. The viewer is outright punch drunk after being hit in the head so many times. The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys even has a reference to Knowles’ “A Separate Peace”, a broken arm by one of the main characters. Agh! Damn you John Knowles! From the depths of the internet I stab at thee!

One comment

  1. Damn! I do love me a scathing review! I think the author of ‘The Dangerous Lives of the Alter Boys’ died after writing that one book. It’s a shame it couldn’t have been better.

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