The Perfect Score

on January 30, 2004 by Michael Tunison
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Like a student with apparent potential who blows it when the moment comes to sit down and take the big test, the teen caper flick "The Perfect Score" is a classic underachiever with sadly limited future prospects. Although it benefits from a fun concept and a couple of strong key performances, this MTV Films production about six misunderstood high school kids attempting to steal the answers to the SAT college entrance exam ultimately fails to make the grade in nearly every category.

Their individual college dreams threatened by anticipated mediocre scores on the dreaded upcoming SAT, a would-be architect ("Not Another Teen Movie's" Chris Evans) and his goofball sidekick (Bryan Greenberg from TV's "One Tree Hill") hatch an unlikely scheme to take a shortcut to academic glory by ripping off a list of correct answers from the offices of the company that administers the test. Pulled into the plot for reasons of their own are the class brain ("Traffic's" Erika Christensen), an NBA-scouted basketball player (real-life L.A. Clipper Darius Miles) a bitter rich-girl rebel (Scarlett Johansson from "Lost in Translation") and--least stereotypically--a wacky Asian stoner (newcomer Leonardo Nam). Naturally, all of the above have "Breakfast Club"-style personal issues just begging to be revealed as the heist becomes an opportunity for each to make an artificial character transformation in the formulaic Hollywood manner.

Directed by Brian Robbins ("Varsity Blues"), the film is marked by jarring jumps in tone from broad comedy to drama, action-suspense and, most ridiculously, earnest "message" material about the unfairness of standardized testing. Nam easily steals the show with the only memorable character, a Jeff Spicoli-esque pothead videogame fanatic, while the fast-rising star Johansson impresses once again as the only cast member able to get anywhere with the limp dramatic segments. Starring Erika Christensen, Chris Evans, Bryan Greenberg, Scarlett Johansson, Darius Miles and Leonardo Nam. Directed by Brian Robbins. Written by Mark Schwahn, Marc Hyman and Jon Zack. Produced by Roger Birnbaum, Jonathan Glickman, Brian Robbins and Mike Tollin. A Paramount release. Comedy/Drama. Rated PG-13 for language, sexual content and some drug references. Running time: 92 min

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