The Perfect Score (2004) / Comedy-Thriller

MPAA Rated: PG-13 for language, drug references, and sexual content
Running Time: 93 min.

Cast: Chris Evans, Bryan Greenberg, Scarlett Johansson, Erika Christensen, Leonardo Nam, Darius Miles, Tyra Ferrell, Matthew Lillard, Vanessa Angel
Director: Brian Robbins

Screenplay: Mark Schwann, Marc Hyman, Jon Zack
Review published August 14, 2005

For a film that revolves around a test that measures scholastic aptitude, it sure is dumb.  For a film made by MTV, I guess I shouldn't expect any less, but this one's so preposterous to anyone that has even a passing knowledge of how the SAT's work, it should be placed in the Fantasy section of your local video store.  Interestingly, much of the film deals more with external issues like relationships, parental pressures, and the "big heist", which aren't exactly handled in any special way, but at least they take the focus away from the flawed idea for a plot. 

The plot in question revolves around a group of teens that, for varying reasons, need to score very well on their upcoming SAT tests.  Given their previous experiences with the test, they all have reason to think that there is no way they will be able to get the scores they need to succeed.  The students join together and concoct a plan to steal the answers to the test, but the problem is, they will need to break in to a heavily secure building in order to get them.  With the daughter of the building's owner on their side, it just might work.

A relatively likeable cast is wasted on a film that is definitely beneath their talent.  This is especially true of Scarlett Johansson (Lost in Translation, Eight Legged Freaks) and Erika Christensen (Swimfan, Traffic) , two actresses that have done far better material, and I would think that they definitely don't need the money.  Although it starts off being a story about the pressures of living up the the most important test of most teenagers lives, eventually the film gets bogged down into ill-timed romantic dabbling and Oceans Eleven-ish heist plotting that feels too familiar to raise pulse levels.

For a comedy, there are far too many lulls tossed in, with occasional moments of seriousness in an attempt to give the teen problems some weight, but end up too phony to take with any seriousness.  The cast is better than the characters they play, and in fact, they are so good that it is hard to actually believe such smart and capable young men and women would be as shallow and empty-headed as depicted in the film.  Their one-dimensionality serves little purpose except for comic relief or trite social commentary.  The character of Roy, the Asian-American stoner, is supposed to provide the biggest laughs, but only manages to irritate.  Same goes for Matthew Lillard (Scooby-Doo, Thirteen Ghosts) as Chris Evans' (Cellular, Fantastic Four) slacker older brother.

As you'd expect from an MTV production, the bells-and-whistles are what makes the film watchable, with an attractive ensemble of young actors, a catchy soundtrack full of punk and pop, and slick eye-candy direction from Brian Robbins.  However, the script is a dud, and no amount of spit and polish can disguise the fact that this is as boneheaded and misguided an idea for a major motion picture release as it gets.  No 1600 score for this underachiever -- perhaps The Perfect Snore would have been more appropriate a title. 

Qwipster's rating:

2005 Vince Leo