The Battle Of Shaker Heights (2003)

DVD Cover (Miramax)
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A young war reenactor makes a friend on the battlefield who helps him use strategy to take on his high school enemy. Driven by newfound confidence, he seduces the friend's fetching older sister and risks the friendship. Reality intervenes when the illness of his ex-addict father forces the anger his irony masks to the surface and he has to decide if staying in a fantasy world is worth the consequences. --IMDb
Review by Kari Byron's Sex Cyborg
Added: August 04, 2007
The Battle Of Shaker Heights was the second product to come from the Project Greenlight contest which awarded amateur filmmakers the chance to make a movie with a million dollar budget. The resulting films have been critically regarded as abrupt flops and duds. The first movie to be produced, Stolen Summer, had been shown in only thirteen theaters during two weeks, approximately making a meager $130,000 with production costs totaling $1.8 million. The third movie produced, Feast, made an even worse $54,556 at the box office. Looking at those figures, it could easily be inferred that neither of the films are worth your money or time; however, both films did yield several favorable reviews and due to the successful DVD sales of Feast, there is actually talk about a sequel or two.

So what of The Battle Of Shaker Heights? It made $279,282 in box office earnings and received a lesser amount of decent reviews than the other two. If you've ever seen the Project Greenlight TV series that follows the behind-the-scenes making of the films which win the contest (and can read between the lines), you're aware of: who's input gets fully recognized, what conditions the film is produced under, and the pressure put on the filmmakers. Now, although Project Greenlight seemed like a great idea for upcoming filmmakers, a question that arises is how they could neglect to properly market these films, especially when marketing was heavily emphasized to make Feast a big commercial success. Aside from that, it seemed as if the reality TV show was to be the main attraction all along with the contest winners being pawns in an attempt to create good television drama while the significance of the film sat in the backseat; despite the decent reviews and my similar opinions, this is clearly evident in the quality found in the final products.

On with the actual review...
The Battle Of Shaker Heights is a coming-of-age film about 17-year-old protagonist Kelly Ernswiler (Shia LaBeouf). Kelly is a history/war buff and he has a hobby of being a war reenacter. During one of his reenactments, Kelly befriends Bart Bowland (Elden Henson), who is on his way to college soon. When Kelly comes over to Bart's house one day, he meets Bart's older sister, Tabby (Amy Smart), and becomes very infatuated with her at first sight. Aiming to fulfill his adolescent fantasy of having Tabby fall for him, he tries to charm her throughout the movie even though she has a fiancÚ.

In between the main focus, we roughly get to see interaction amongst Kelly and his parents. His mother (Kathleen Quinlan) is an artist running a little business out of their home as she teaches people how to paint. His father (William Sadler) is an unemployed, recovering drug addict that wasted all of Kelly's college fund on his addiction, and for that and his troubles, Kelly has strong resentment towards him. There's also Kelly's friend and classmate Sarah (Shiri Appleby) who works with him at the local grocery store and obviously has growing feelings for him that overstep them just being friends.

Shia LaBeouf truly holds this film together and carries it well, though. His wit and presence is able to keep your attention, being able to tackle the mixture of both comedy and drama. The other performances aren't too grand in mentioning, but they did their thing. Out of all the people we meet, none of them are able to develop too much or offer a strong connection, and that hurts because this is supposed to be a drama. What hinders The Battle Of Shaker Heights from being more than your average, so-so movie is that it comes up short in quality departments; much of the emotion in it is very thin, there isn't anything to praise in its sound and video aspect, and the cuts/editing make the movie seem disjointed at parts- noting when "something goes on" between Kelly and Tabby that in turn angers Bart.

To be honest, I was ready to give this a really bad review before I rewatched it, as the first time around I believe I was left bored and just plain uninterested. I'm glad I gave it a second chance because this is an okay movie, but it really could have been much smoother, if not much better, if it was disconnected from the whole Project Greenlight hubbub, which I blame for this film's flaws.

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