"The Battle of Shaker Heights" was the second offering from the Project Greenlight program offered by Matt Damon & Ben Affleck in which a winning script is greenlighted as a Hollywood film and given a $1,000,000 budget.
I'm assuming that some of these stars are working for considerably less than their typical wage...for example, while Amy Smart is definitely not quite the household name yet...she's far above anything this film has to offer. Why'd she do this film? To give a newcomer a chance? To sleep with Matt Damon? One has to wonder. It couldn't have possibly been the script.
I wanted to like this film, and found it entertaining on a certain made-for-tv movie level. Yet, there were a couple MAJOR things that bothered me tremendously throughout the film.
First, the two leads...the two boys who take revenge...these two boys are somewhat physically similar to Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, the two boys responsible for the Columbine Massacre. The entire film I thought about Columbine...I kept thinking to myself...these are the kinds of boys who would do such a thing. Having these thoughts took me beyond any point of empathy for the characters, and I started to feel sorry for the "bad guys." That is, in fact, another problem with the film. "Bad guys" seem to be anyone who disagrees with these two...Kelly (played by Shia LaBeouf), has parents who are largely peace oriented people, involved in the community...he has a father struggling to maintain sobriety and help others. Quite simply, Kelly is a complete ass whose only social skills center around war games...So, Kelly's parents are bad? Or this kid who they terrorize...who, in reality, was only defending his father...yes, he did so in a physical and inappropriate way...but, truthfully, if you mess with someone I love...I'm not going to hug you...I'm going to kick your ass. So, in reality, what was bad about any of these people? So, we end up with a shallow, manufactured conflict that is poorly developed and VERY poorly written.
LaBouef is a decent enough actor, but this character is simply horrid. As his partner in crime, Elden Henson is only slightly above functional. Smart does a nice job with an underdeveloped character.
My other big issue with the script is its simple meanspiritedness. Does anyone in this film actually care about anyone beyond themselves? Kelly abuses his parents, his classmates, a co-worker who wants his attention...classmates abuse each other...the parents, while caring, have no communication skills whatsoever...the school dismisses Kelly...This truly is a Columbine situation waiting to happen. That, for me, is ultimately why I can't put this film above the "D" range...A weak script, average performances and lack of a moral center have overcome any goodwill I have for the wonderful Project Greenlight.
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