The Battle of Shaker Heights
Film Review by: Witney Seibold
Kelly Ernswiler is a nerd with an esoteric fetish: war reenactment. I know few people who can relate to the nerdy activity, but I’m sure everyone can relate to his adolescent awkwardness. “The Battle of Shaker Heights,” the film featuring Kelly (Shia LaBoeuf), is a refreshing, funny, slightly shaky, but oddly honest film, and is all the more refreshing in the face of a more “serious” teen-angst film like “thirteen.” The hero is sarcastic to a brutal degree, awkward to a painful degree, and real to a funny degree. He masks his pain with jokes and war. I know I can relate to that.
Other players in Kelly’s drama (for the film belongs to him), are his new friend Bart (Elden Henson) who helps him stage a revenge on the school bully, Bart’s sister Tabby (the insanely beautiful Amy Smart) an older woman and apple of Kelly’s bumbling eye, his peer Sarah (Shiri Appleby) who likes Kelly but is unnoticed by him, and his parents (Kathleen Quinlan and William Sadler), who play the typical teen-angst role of Happiness Obstructers, but are actually smart, and actually parent. Kelly bounces about these people, knowing exactly how to deal with impromptu situations and how to have the upper hand through his ironic attitude, but never really talking about anything important. Knowing, in other words, how to play-fight a battle, but not win a real war.
This film is the second winner in the Damon/Affleck “Project Greenlight” contest, a competition that promises distribution to the best of the entries. The last film in the contest, Stolen Summer, went unseen by many, myself included, and gained little praise. “The Battle of Shaker Heights”, directed by Efram Potelle & Kyle Rankin, and written by Erica Beeney, is a huge step in the right direction, proving the talent of all involved. Shia LaBoeuf, with this film and “Holes,” has now proved himself a sterling young comic talent. The film is indeed slightly murky, and occasionally sentimental (the teen gripes are usual, and there’s actually a group-hug), but is full of life, humor, and a bracing antidote to heavier, self-important coming-of-age tales.