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"The Battle of Shaker Heights"

Directed by Efram Potelle and Kyle Rankin.
Written by Erica Beeney.
Starring Shia LaBeouf, Shiri Appleby and Amy Smart. 
Release Year:  2003 
Review Date:  9/4/03

Folks-- 

I thought it would be fitting to end the summer reviews with a movie I have been following all summer, since I have been watching the second season of HBO’s “Project Greenlight.”  “The Battle of Shaker Heights”, written by Erica Beeney and directed by Kyle Rankin & Efram Potelle, was fun to see made...but, was it fun to see the final product?

One thing is clear from the beginning of the film:  like the TV show, the best thing about “Project Greenlight” and “Shaker Heights” is the film’s star, Shia LaBeouf.  He almost single-handedly saves the film from shitdom; as teen war buff Kelly, LaBeouf has the charm and the comic timing to make the role work, and even though I had seen many of his scenes in the TV series, they were still funny in the movie, a credit to his work.  The story concerns Kelly’s attempts to win the heart of Tabby (Amy Smart), the sister of his new best friend Bart (Elden Henson); meanwhile, Kelly has a home life with two parents (William Sadler from “Die Hard 2” and Kathleen Quinlan) that is in serious need of repair but Kelly is too stubborn to initially deal with it.

The finished product reflects what you know if you saw the TV show--Beeney’s script is a dramedy, but the final film leans more towards comedy.  Clocking in at just over 80 minutes, the film needs something else to make it feel whole and I thought a bit more drama would have fleshed out Kelly’s strained relations with his family and made that seem more believable.  As it is, everything about the project feels rushed--Kelly and Bart’s relationship is the only thing that feels right, if anything because I think that is how guys work as friends in high school.  A sideplot with Kelly and his convenience store co-worker Sarah (Shiri Appleby, “Swimfan”) felt from the get-go that the two should get together, but due to time, all you have are three scenes with Sarah being rejected by Kelly, then whammo!  They’re together!  Kelly’s parents are nearly left on the cutting room floor, their scenes are so distant; Quinlan’s performance felt weak, and Sadler is a ghost here.  If you’ve been watching the show, you already know that many of Sadler’s scenes were cut in the final version, and this hurts the final film so much.

There are some great laughs in “Shaker Heights” and this makes the film palatable.  I thought that “Shaker Heights” was not quite as good as the show this year, though; as drama, “Project Greenlight” works if you have any interest in production, and this year the folks at Miramax and HBO did a better job of showing us pre- and post-production on a film; the final three episodes of the show this season (after the film has wrapped) were very intriguing as we got to see how Miramax would try and sell the film to the public, and how arduous the process of editing really is even on a film this short.  The casting issues that dominated the early episodes of the show were also quite well done, and it was truly a ride to see how LivePlanet (the production company that handled the film) would get the film cast and staffed in time for the start date of principal photography.

The actual filming days were not as interesting this year, mostly because things were not a nightmare like they were on “Stolen Summer”, the film from the first “Project Greenlight” season.  Everything went wrong on that set, so you had more going on there last year, but otherwise, season two of “Project Greenlight” took the cake.

Rating of “The Battle of Shaker Heights”:  Matinee
Rating for “Project Greenlight”:  $9.50 Show

 

Comments?  Drop me a line at justin@bellviewmovies.com.

 

Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/bellviewmovies.com except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09