Project Greenlight is an HBO series that chronicles the entire filmmaking process from choosing a script to releasing the film. Although I've never seen the show, I was more than prepared to hate the final product of the show's second season. I mean, who wants to see a film created for a reality television show? But after watching The Battle of Shaker Heights, I have to admit that I enjoyed it despite my intentions.
Shia LaBeouf is perfect for his role as Kelly, a high school kid who has troubles in the classroom, at home, and of course, with the ladies. His only escape is to participate in World War II reenactments, where he never sticks the script, but instead makes himself the hero on the fake battlefield in a way he never could in reality. LaBeouf delivers his lines with flawless timing that would make a comedy veteran jealous. But where the hell did this 17 year old kid get such fast wit? I mean, I didn't get my lightning quick wit until I was 28.
It's this quick banter amongst the high school kids that in any other film would be grossly unrealistic. These kids are simply too smart and use words and references that no high school kid should understand, let alone use regularly. Whether it's Kelly or his rich friend Bart (Elden Hensen), they all fit this bill. But you know what, it doesn't matter here. It works. It's funny. It makes these kids stand apart from those found in other teen comedies. I had no problem suspending my disbelief and accepting the fact these kids are much cooler than I'll ever be.
Of course, this wouldn't be a good teen film if it didn't throw Kelly into some awkward situations with the ladies, which are always funny because we've all been in those situations, no matter how suave we were during our school years. But in this respect, The Battle of Shaker Heights is a little more fresh and original than most. Kelly is completely smitten with Bart's sexy older sister, Tabby (Amy Smart), who just happens to be getting married. Meanwhile, Kelly doesn't even notice the cutie right under his nose, Sarah (Shiri Appleby). Isn't this how all teen comedies work, you might ask. Well, yes, it is. But this one plays it so we never quite know if he's going to get the "it" girl, the "average" girl, or simply stay alone. In other words, it's not quite as black and white as you might expect.
This film's story is a little simplistic that at times feels like a made for TV movie. But that's okay because it's hilarious when it needs to be. The timing is nearly perfect. Sure, the comedy gets thin at the end when Kelly's life begins to fall apart on all levels, but luckily this out of place drama is short lived and the funny situations and dialog reappear just in time to save the day.
The Battle of Shaker Heights is not a perfect film, it's just a funny one. Even if you're not one to enjoy the fruition of reality shows, this one might make you think twice.
Miramax presents The Battle of Shaker Heights in a very pleasant 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Detail is sharp throughout, even well into the shadows and the backgrounds. Colors look correct and vibrant, with the darker colors looking particularly nice. There are a few instances of grain during darker scenes, but these moments are hardly detrimental to the quality of the picture. Although I wouldn't say this is reference quality, it's a great transfer that's more than adequate for this comedy.
Miramax presents The Battle of Shaker Heights in 5.1 Dolby Digital, and it sounds great. Now, this is not special effects heavy science fiction flick, so don't expect too much, but this comedy, which is mostly dialog driven, does offer some rear channel work. The music really surrounds the audience, and the occasionally effect does flow across the appropriate sound fields. The low end isn't particularly heavy, but the woofer is used enough to create a solid world for the characters. Plus, voices are crisp and clear, which is key for this type of film.
THE BONUS FEATURES
Is it just me, or wouldn't this DVD be the perfect spot for a few featurettes about the show Project Greenlight. What about interviews with the winning script writer Erica Beeney? This disc is screaming for bonus material. Sadly, all we get are three trailers (Stolen Summer, Spy Kids 3D, and Miramax Golden Age).
A static image of the film's hero, Kelly, with an inset of moving images from the film. These menus are lacking, that's for certain. But for a DVD with no special features, I guess I can't complain.
The Battle of Shaker Heights is funny, and that's all I need to recommend this film, even if you're not a fan of HBO's Project Greenlight. If you like teen comedies, or if you're a fan of the television series, give this one a try.