September 08, 2003 12:00 PM

Shia LaBeouf, Kathleen Quinlan, Amy Smart, Elden Henson

HBO’s Project Greenlight series, which just completed its second season, may be fascinating to watch, but the movies that have resulted so far—last year’s Stolen Summer and now The Battle of Shaker Heights—are the cinematic equivalent of liver. They mean well, but who really likes this stuff? For those who’ve missed the series, Greenlight‘s gimmick is that pals Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, serving as producers, help select a script and fledgling filmmakers, hand over $1 million or so and then document the process as the tyro directors (there are two on Heights) and screenwriter struggle to make their low-budget, would-be masterpiece.

Heights is an earnest coming-of-age story that is so scattershot in its approach to getting to the bottom of what’s troubling Kelly (LaBeouf), its 17-year-old protagonist, that one’s patience with his antics quickly wears thin. A suburban high school student, Kelly spends his weekends taking part in re-enactments of military battles, partly to escape his clueless parents (Quinlan and William Sadler), who have problems of their own.

LaBeouf, who was winning earlier this year in Holes, here is hamstrung by a script that with every scene changes its mind about who he is and what his problem is. (PG-13) BOTTOM LINE: No one emerges victorious

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