The Battle of Shaker Heights

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Rating: PG-13

Starring:
Shia LaBeouf as Kelly Ernswiler
Elden Henson as Bart Bowland
Amy Smart as Tabby Bowland
Billy Kay as Lance
Kathleen Quinlan as Eve Ernswiler
Shiri Appleby as Sarah
William Sadler as Abe Ernswiler
Ray Wise as Harrison Bowland
Dana Wheeler-Nicholson as Mrs. Bowland
Philipp Karner as Maurice/German Soldier
Anson Mount as Miner Weber
Dale R. Simonton as Todd/German Soldier
Michael McShane as Mr. Norman
Hattie Winston as Principal Holmstead
Rick Cramer as Mr. Thomas/Nazi Colonel
France Nuyen as Xiou-Xiou Ling
Ellis Williams as Charlie Hayes

Special Features:
None

Other Info:
Widescreen (1.85:1) – Enhanced for 16×9 Televisions
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
Running Time: 79 Minutes

Synopsis:
This film was the winner of Project Greenlight 2 and was featured on the HBO series.

Kelly Ernswiler is a troubled young man. His father is a recovering drug addict who squandered away their college fund and the family’s savings. Kelly is also frustrated by his school and the lack of challenges it presents. His future doesn’t look particularly bright. As an escape he joins in on World War II battle reenactments.

Things change, though, when he meets another young war enthusiast named Bart Bowland. Bart is a sympathetic ear and he takes Kelly in under his wing. Kelly also begins to fall for Bart’s older sister Tabby. She’s beautiful, funny, and intelligent. Unfortunately, she’s also engaged. This doesn’t discourage Kelly from trying to win her heart, though. But what will he do when he must eventually face reality?

The Battle of Shaker Heights is rated PG-13 for language and some drug references.

The Movie:
I’ve never seen the Project Greenlight series and I wasn’t familiar with this film before I saw it, but I still enjoyed it. For a film made by rookie writers and directors, I thought they did an excellent job. The Battle Of Shaker Heights is a first rate production with an excellent cast, great cinematography, and an interesting plot.

The film reminds me a lot of Rushmore. Both have kids that are wise beyond their years yet immature in many respects. Both are quirky. Both have strange hobbies. Both young men are after older women who have no romantic interest in them, yet they are absolutely confident in their ability to win their hearts. The main difference is that Rushmore placed much more emphasis on comedy than Shaker Heights does. That’s not to say Shaker Heights isn’t funny, but Rushmore is funnier.

Shia LaBeouf is great as Kelly Ernswiler. I’ve heard him described as a “young Tom Hanks” and that’s not a bad description. LaBeouf is good at playing the “everyman” and he is talented beyond his years. He’s able to go from innocent youth to troubled teen and still be convincing in both roles. His acting is very natural and I think you can expect to see a lot more of him in the future. The cast is also well supported by Amy Smart as Tabby Bowland. She’s both intelligent and inadvertently attractive at the same time. It’s no wonder Kelly falls for her. I always love seeing Kathleen Quinlan in roles and she’s excellent as Kelly’s mom, Eve Ernswiler. William Sadler is also amusing as Abe Ernswiler, Bart’s oddball father. I was also pleasantly surprised to see Dana Wheeler-Nicholson of Fletch fame as Mrs. Bowland.

My favorite moments in the film are the battle reenactments. I had friends who were war enthusiasts while growing up and they nailed their characters exactly. This get particularly funny when these geeks turn the tables on a bully and make him believe the town is being invaded. In between these fun scenes, though, there’s a lot of drama. Some of it is very interesting, some of it is boring. I did find myself checking my watch a few times, but overall I liked the movie.

If you saw Project Greenlight 2, then you’ll definitely want to check this out. If you didn’t, you should still find it interesting, especially if you liked Rushmore. Fans of Shia LaBeouf will also definitely want to see The Battle of Shaker Heights.

The Extras:
There are no extras on this DVD. I wish they had a little something from the Project Greenlight series, but it wasn’t included here.

The Bottom Line:
The Battle of Shaker Heights is worth checking out, at the very least as a renter.

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