The Perfect Score

The SAT is a rite of passage for college-bound seniors across the country, a dreaded test that, according to the filmmakers, robs students of their individuality. The test standardizes them arbitrarily, such that they lose control of their future, and must rely on how they do on the test. So what to do? How about stealing the answers and cheating their way to the future? Such is the premise of The Perfect Score, a movie tailor-made to appeal to the fantasies of frightened high schoolers everywhere. The concept is amusing, but director Brian Robbins (Hardball, Ready to Rumble) goes nowhere with this film. He takes a group of mismatched students, basically one from each high school stereotype, and has them concoct a large than life plan to raid the headquarters of ETS, the makers of the SAT.

The main problem is that the film has a huge moral dilemma. Surely Robbins and writers Marc Hyman (Osmosis Jones), Jon Zack (Out Cold) and Mark Schwahn (Whatever It Takes, 35 Miles from Normal) are not advocating that people cheat? This idea would be okay if they went all out and made this a dark satire, but it's the run-of-the-mill teen comedy. They come up with an unsatisfying, arbitrary ending that ensures that all the teens assert their individuality and turn out as better people, but the tone of this ending is so different from that of the rest of the film that it feels fake and tacked-on.

As a group, most of the actors do not stand out. The only person worth remembering is Leonardo Nam (Nobody's Perfect, Meridian), who plays Roy, the stoner. The script gives Nam plenty of opportunities to make an ass of himself by doing and saying the most random of things. He is the only consistently funny thing in this film, because nobody knows what he will say or do next, only that it will be very strange. Kyle (Chris Evans, Not Another Teen Movie, The Newcomers) wants to go to Cornell for architecture, but his GPA isn't high enough, and his friend Matty (Bryan Greenberg, A Civil Action) needs to get into Maryland because his girlfriend goes there. Desmond (Darius Miles, Van Wilder) needs a 900 to qualify for his basketball scholarship, and Anna (Erika Christensen, The Banger Sisters, Swimfan) is second in her class, yet extremely apprehensive about taking the exam. Last is Francesca (Scarlett Johansson, Girl with a Pearl Earring, Lost in Translation), the punk girl who agrees to help because it sounds like fun.

Their desire to steal the score binds them together, although they all come from different worlds. They come up with a crazy plan that works only because this is a movie. Evans and Greenberg play the ordinary guys, the ones that supposedly anybody can relate to, but their characters are so empty and bland that they are devoid of any sense of life. The same goes to Miles, who plays a hollow stereotype. This is a step backwards for Johansson, recently in the spotlight for some great work in the independent world. Her choices in roles seem to run all over the place, but if her track record is any indication, she should stay away from bigger films. And Christensen is starting to prove that her intense performance in Traffic may have been a fluke. This leaves Nam to carry the picture, playing another stoner stereotype. The Perfect Score moves quickly enough and never gets too boring, but that's not saying much.

Haro Rates It: Not That Good.
1 hour, 33 minutes, Rated PG-13 for language, sexual content, and some drug content.

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