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The Perfect Score

(2004)  1/2 Pg-13
93 min. Paramount Pictures. Director: Brian Robbins. Cast: Erika Christensen, Chris Evans, Bryan Greenberg, Scarlett Johansson, Darius Miles.

Apparently, Hollywood knows two things about teens: they hate the SAT and they love The Matrix. Thus, we have The Perfect Score, an SAT-panic movie in which six teens conspire to steal the test (but with the best of intentions, honest) and Scarlet Johansson momentarily dons Carrie-Anne Moss drag for the 3,492nd Matrix homage in the last four years. But the teens I know also know shit from shinola. Even The Perfect Score knows this, when one of the characters drawls, "X is to Y as this shit is to boring."

Brian Robbins has a burgeoning career as director (Varsity Blues) and producer (Radio, TV's Smallville), but to me, he'll always be Eric Mardian from the '80s sitcom Head of the Class. Like that sitcom's varied bunch of nerds, the SAT worrywarts of The Perfect Score are a demographically varied bunch: white-bread hero Kyle (Chris Evans of Not Another Teen Movie); lovestruck buddy Matty (Bryan Greenberg), pining to join his college girlfriend; 4.0-student Anna (Erika Christensen), who freezes up on the SAT; Asian stoner Roy (Leonardo Nam); African-American hoop-dreamer Desmond (Darius Miles); and Johansson as a new-wavy rich bitch who incredibly works at the offices of SAT-maker ETS (Educational Testing Services).

As social commentary, one of the three screenwriters threw in the absurdity that SAT, which once stood for Scholastic Aptitude Test, now stands simply--in a post-P.C. world--for SAT, and before the inevitable back-pedalling, we get excuses galore: the test is unfair, it's making schools corrupt, "It's a victimless crime." Why we are meant to sympathize with unethical, lazy, vapid students is beyond me. But never mind that: aren't they pretty?

For a funny SAT comedy, rent Orange County. For an affecting teen drama, rent The Breakfast Club. Here, the plot and characters are never for a moment plausible or unpredictable. ETS lets high-schoolers work in the proximity of the test? Hardly. A 4.0 student will risk a B&E collar to improve her SAT score? She looks like she could afford a therapist instead. Do I need to tell you that Matty's girlfriend doesn't give a fig about him, Anna only needs someone to believe in her, Roy and Desmond are smarter than they let on, the heist will hit dangerous snags, and the thieves will collectively arrive at the notion that stealing the SAT is wrong after all? Well, I just did, so you needn't see this cynical, stupid movie.

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