"The Battle of Shaker
Heights" is the second offering released and made from the successful HBO
reality series "Project Green light" which chronicles the search for a
screenplay and director in which Ben Affleck and Matt Damon will produce
for one million dollars. Then we get to see the movie being made and
inevitably watch the film.
I didn't see the first season of "Project Greenlight" but I did watch the
product of it "Stolen Summer", a mediocre, bland, and safe offering from
Damon and Affleck who don't want to take a risk considering their history
for risky and edgy indies like "Mallrats", "Chasing Amy", and "Gerry". I
decided to watch the second season of "Project Greenlight" and yet again
it was the search for a screenplay to finance and a director.
For the second season there was the same self-indulgent ranting from
Affleck and Damon, and some showing off of J.Lo from Affleck but
nonetheless I watched amateur screenwriter Erica Beeney win, and a two
director team Efram Potelle, and Kyle Rankin get the chance to show off
their chops. Suffice it to say the season was a rip as we watched these
three amateurs slog through the production, fight, and fail in all the
test screenings to audiences. So, "The Battle of Shaker Heights" was made
and released, and yet again after watching I realized it's still more
contrived, fluffy, and safe offerings into the film world.
The main reason to watch "Battle of
Shaker Heights"? The great performances by the cast. Though the characters
are so under-developed, the cast does their best and they manage to make
this memorable. Amy Smart gives a great performance as the sexy older
woman with mystique and is pretty good with her character. Though Smart
isn't a traditional beauty she comes off as radiant, and very beautiful.
Elden Henson is great in his supporting role as Bart the best friend of
Kelly who helps him exact his revenge on the school bully. Shiri Appleby
is usually very adorable in her performances and though she's given very
little to do here, she manages to come off as likable and adorable.
one of the main reason to check this out is Shia Lebeouf's performance as
Kelly; though Labeouf himself is portrayed rather badly in "Project
Greenlight" he gives a pretty funny performance. One of the funniest
scenes is when he meets Tabby for the first time, and his deadpan
deliveries of his witty one-liners. Lebeouf is a highlight in this film
and steals ever scene.
I can't understand why Affleck and Damon won't take more riskier projects
on board and insist on financing these fluffy shallow films other than
using this show for publicity. What's wrong with "The Battle of Shaker
Heights"? Many things, but mostly it's it's horrible script and dialogue.
Some dialogue had me cringing, some had me staring in confusion, and some
dialogue just left me alienated.
We saw the series, we saw the
activity, and we saw how many people actually had input on the making of
this movie. It's clear by this movie, all of its characters, all of the
muddled subplots taking place at once that there were simply too many
cooks in the kitchen. We could see it in the series. We saw the directors
Efram Potelle and Kyle Rankin, two very unprofessional directors
attempting to take control of the film and re-write the script, we saw
Erica Beeney trying to take control of her script, we saw producers Matt
Damon and Ben Affleck weighing in, we saw Harvey Weinstein weighing in, we
saw producer Chris Moore coming in and trying to take control. There was
just too many people for one movie, and that's the problem. Did it occur
to anyone to give them the money and let them make the film, then give
your input on the finishing article?
Ultimately, "The Battle of Shaker Heights" is not a movie, it's a concept
for a movie that never gets off the ground. I felt like I was watching an
hour and a half trailer for a movie with a bunch of random scenes cut
together without a real story, I can't wait to find out what the real
movie looks like. What "Shaker Heights" suffers from with the mediocre
directing job is a very underdeveloped range of characters that we never
get to know. We trudge through lines like "Why are you dicking with me,
you little dick. You wanna play, dick face?" and the worst of the dialogue
where the main character Kelly is attempting to talk with Tabby. She is
painting and she says "I'm playing with diffusion", to which he replies
"Well make sure you do it under super vision." Ha ha. It's cheesy lines
like that make this movie so ridiculous at times.
Kelly is a world war re-creationist who takes pride in knowing about the
wars fought and is a bit rebellious, and one day he meets Bart the
youngest in a rich family who befriends the troubled youth and the two
become friends, until Kelly meets Bart's older sister Tabby well played by
Amy Smart who doesn't seem to acknowledge the boy but still befriends him
slightly and goes about her business. Soon Kelly looks for any excuse to
hand around Tabby knowing she's getting married which creates conflict.
Very under-developed conflict.
Throughout the entire film I was thinking how good this movie could have
been had they added thirty more minutes to the running time which could
have left the door open for more character development and more
development with its number of subplots, but once again, its story never
goes beyond its concept. Kelly is an odd character, he's a war buff
because hey he has a vehicle and wears the clothing, and he works at a
supermarket when there's nobody there, and he has a friend/co-worker named
Sarah played by the adorable Shiri Appleby, another grossly under
developed character who has a combined total of five scenes in the film
and is never focused on. We know the two are friends and we get the slight
sense she's jealous at his fawning over another woman, but there's barely
any focus on her, so who cares?
So, we see Tabby another under-developed character who's given the persona
of an artistic individual who never develops beyond her character concept.
She's a bit of a tease towards Kelly giving him little smiles and flirty
come on's yet gets angered when he responds. She's then given the plot
that she's getting married to a guy named Miner to when she's ever asked
about the marriage she quickly responds "I don't want to talk about it."
Why? They never explain it. It was assumed by me that she was set up from
another rich family and forced to marry him. But it's never explained in
the sloppy script.
So Kelly confronts her in a really bad scene when she's crying complaining
her fiance kissed another woman which leads to a kiss between the two
characters. If she hardly seems to care about her fiance why does she care
that he cheated? It's plot holes like that that make the movie unbearable
to watch at times. The character Miner, Tabby's fiance doesn't seem to be
a bad guy. He befriends Kelly, talks to him like a friend, yet we're
supposed to view him as the bad guy.
Screenwriter Beeney never gives us a reason to hate him, so Kelly is the
one that comes off as the jerk in his pursuit towards Tabby. Then it's
never explained why Kelly falls in love with Tabby in the first place, and
we never really get to know Bart outside of his conceptual design as a
neat dresser and proper yet friendly guy. So, Kelly is given an obligatory
sub-plot which handles the job of setting up his character but is really
forced. His mom is a Bohemian artist who houses a group of artists who
manufacture paintings in their home and sell them, and Kelly's father
works somewhere with drug addicts.
Being an ex-addict himself, he tries to reach out to Kelly though Kelly
refuses to talk to him. Once again, Kelly's parents aren't given subplots
nor are they developed and fleshed out, so they're simply plot devices in
the end. The plot tries to reel towards comedic tones but ultimately ends
up as a depressing drama about a rather annoying guy. Writer Beeney sets
up so many sub-plots at once but never fleshes them out and never develops
them, so everything feels forced, awkward, and rushed. Even as it
transforms into a drama, the drama is forced as well in some awkward and
droning scenes including Kelly confronting Tabby on her wedding day, a
scene where Bart and Kelly inflict revenge on a school bully which
attempts to be funny but just ends up becoming mean, and the happy safe
ending which is so trite, obvious, and tacked on it left me groaning in my
"The Battle of Shaker Heights" has a lot of potential to be a great coming
of age teen drama, but potential is all it has. "The Battle of Shaker
Heights" and "Stolen Summer" is proof that a good concept doesn't always
pan out in a successful franchise. While the "Project Greenlight" is
entertaining and engrossing the finishing products are poor. How about
throwing more money and time to these poor people? It's no wonder HBO
dropped the series.
Though this does garner great
performances by Smart, Elden Henson, and especially Shia Lebeouf and the
occasional entertaining moment, this suffers from a terrible script with
grossly under-developed sub-plots and characters, cheesy dialogue, and
many plot holes.
My advice: stop "Project Greenlight"
until Affleck and Damon are ready to take risks in their investments and
until Miramax is willing to cough up more money and time for making these
films. Then maybe we'll get a film worth talking about.