DVD Review
The Battle of Shaker Heights
Shaker Heights poster
By Lee Tistaert     Published January 7, 2004
US Release: August 22, 2003

Directed by: Efram Potelle Kyle Rankin
Starring: Shia LaBeouf , Elden Henson , Amy Smart , Shiri Appleby

Running Time: 85 minutes
Domestic Box Office: $279,000
The premise is clich? and doesn?t exactly open up grand windows for originality, but the execution through the actors ? especially our young lead, Shia LaBeouf ? makes the movie tolerable and even occasionally funny.
The Battle of Shaker Heights is the latest Project Greenlight movie. For those who are not aware, Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, and Chris Moore got together to form a contest where an unknown writer and director would get a chance to make a movie (budgeted at $1 million) for Miramax that probably wouldn?t get made at any other studio.

In 2002, Pete Jones won the contest for his screenplay, Stolen Summer, and was granted the opportunity to direct it as well. This time, the fields were granted separately, and the contest gave birth to Shaker Heights, written by Erica Beeney, and directed by Efram Potelle and Kyle Rankin.

Though I did like Stolen Summer to some degree and do like Shaker Heights (but slightly less so), Stolen Summer had much better potential as a concept even if it didn?t entirely achieve in everything it could have. What is missing in The Battle of Shaker Heights is the urgent sensation that the story needs to be told to an audience.

The Battle of Shaker Heights follows the adolescent life of Kelly (Shia LaBeouf). As a young 17-year old whose hobby is reenacting war scenes, Kelly?s relationship with his parents is a war of its own. While falling for his best friend?s (Bart - Eldon Johnson) older sister, Tabby (Amy Smart), Kelly has an idea to get revenge on his one enemy (at school) using the help of his friends? war scene tactics.

The premise is clich? and doesn?t exactly open up grand windows for originality, but the execution through the actors ? especially our young lead, Shia LaBeouf ? makes the movie tolerable and even occasionally funny. The actors give the movie the life that it needs, as my guess is that Beeney?s script is rather simplistic in its ambitions.

While the movie in general is simplistic, the performances are its saving grace. The film is directed a bit amateurish at times (even though it is to be expected), but Potelle and Rankin seem to be lucky to have the cast that they do; without these names, the filmmakers might have had trouble delivering a semi-entertaining film.

The idea of this Project Greenlight contest is a good and fascinating one, and it?s almost surprising that other groups of industry people haven?t stepped up to the plate to build an organization as such. But then again, this contest (to date) has also confirmed the lack of truly great ideas needing to be told to moviegoers from unknown filmmaker perspectives. With the Project Greenlight season having highlighted the top contenders on its televised HBO show, one can sense that there may actually be a reason for the limited quantity of these foundations.

Granted, Stolen Summer (at least in my eyes) could have been quite a good movie had Pete Jones gotten more experience behind the camera previously (as that production also faced the burden of occasional amateurish execution). But many of the contestants on the show during both seasons did fail to convey an answer to the big question within their pitches: what?s the urgency in telling this story?

The Battle of Shaker Heights is neither a solid, good movie, nor a purely average movie, but it treads the line of being just ?okay.? Box office wise, Affleck, Damon, and Moore are probably not going to find much success if this tend continues (Shaker Heights only grossed a little more than Stolen Summer, which flopped), but that doesn?t mean their efforts should halt.

My hope is that the group either adjusts the contest to assure a rock solid concept, or that contestants simply pull through with something really worth telling. Shaker Heights is not a must-see, nor is it solid entertainment, but it does just enough to get by on a reasonable recommendation.
Lee's Grade: B-
Lee's Overall Grading: 2973 graded movies
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'Shaker Heights' Articles
  • Stephen's DVD review C+
    January 7, 2004    The film is fun enough to keep viewers interested, but not quite memorable. Having seen the final product, I?d still rather talk about how the film got made (having seen it happen on the TV show) as opposed to the film itself. -- Stephen Lucas