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The Battle of Shaker Heights
2003 - PG-13 - 77 Mins.
Director: Efram Potelle and Kyle Rankin
Producer: Ben Affleck and Matt Damon
Written By: Erica Beeney
Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Elden Henson, Shiri Appleby, Amy Smart
Review by: Joe Rickey

Who would have thought that being a teenager would be so difficult?
Project Greenlight was originally an idea devised by both Miramax Films, HBO, along with Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. Their original concept was to take the idea of reality television and mix it with the world of film to make for compelling viewing. The idea of Project Greenlight is to give budding first-time filmmakers a one million dollar budget to make a film based on a script also concocted by a newcomer. The entire process, from the selection of the script to the casting and editing, would be documented for HBO to turn into a TV series unlike any seen before. Miramax would then release the film into theatres and the filmmakers would gain both experience and exposure.

The first film released under the Project Greenlight banner was Stolen Summer, a low-key tale of youth and redemption. It featured a top-notch cast but even with such a low budget, it was deemed a failure at the box office as basically nobody saw it theatrically. Now comes The Battle of Shaker Heights, once again featuring a top-notch cast that includes Shia LaBeouf, Amy Smart, Elden Henson, and Shiri Appleby. The film, like its predecessor, failed at the box office. Did it deserve such a fate?

The narrative of The Battle of Shaker Heights concerns a teen by the name of Kelly Ernswiler (LaBeouf). He is a part time employee at the local grocery store and an avid re-enactor of past wars such as World War II. He studies up on all the facts one could possibly want to know about even the miniscule events of such wars. Even so, when it comes time for him to act his part in the staged events he and his friends put together, he always varies from the set script and tries to be the hero. It is because of his interest in such “strange” and “uncool” topics as history that a bully decides to continuously pick on him. Kelly quickly tires of this so he teams up with a friend and fellow history connoisseur (Elden Henson) to get revenge using tried and true battle tactics. Complications arise when Kelly meets his friends’ older sister (Amy Smart) with whom he instantly becomes smitten despite the fact that she is set to get married soon. The film is directed by Efram Potelle and Kyle Rankin and written by Erica Beeney.

The Battle of Shaker Heights made it through all the drama of the documented process as quite a solid little film. The opening scene, a faux representation of a World War II battle, sets up the humorous nature of the film right from the get-go. Scenes are handled with obvious care on the part of the filmmakers as they manage to not get bogged down in melodrama often seen in the films of young directors. The script by Erica Beeney is also to credit as it provides a likable protagonist along with a reasonably well-constructed plotline.

The film is helped further by a cast that is on the top of their game. In the lead role, Shia LaBeouf gives an acerbically funny performance that nonetheless is simultaneously able to capture the tumultuous time that is adolescence. Elden Henson is fine but doesn’t leave as much of an impression as his costar. Amy Smart effortlessly conveys the sexiness and intelligence that would make Kelly adore her. Shiri Appleby also gives a solid performance with what she is given as the lovelorn girl who has a crush on Kelly.

Overall, The Battle of Shaker Heights is an entertainingly humorous entry into the teenage angst sub-genre and a fine effort by filmmakers who definitely have a future in the world of writing and directing, respectively.
Movie Guru Rating
Entertaining and well crafted.  May not be worth the price of a theater ticket, but a solid rental. Entertaining and well crafted.  May not be worth the price of a theater ticket, but a solid rental. Entertaining and well crafted.  May not be worth the price of a theater ticket, but a solid rental. Entertaining and well crafted.  May not be worth the price of a theater ticket, but a solid rental.
  3.5 out of 5 stars

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