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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