February 3, 2004  
Volume 97, Issue 68  

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Teen rip-off caper flick
The Perfect Score fails

By Justin Manuel
Gazette Writer

The Perfect Score

Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Erika Christensen, Chris Evans, Bryan Greenberg, Darius Miles, Leonardo Nam
Director: Brian Robbins

Paramount Pictures/2004
SO WHO’S GONNA SCORE THIS TIME? Bryan Greenberg, Scarlett Johansson and Chris Evans star in the teenSAT-heist-comedy-whatever thriller The Perfect Score.

Every so often, a movie is made that revolutionizes its genre, causing film critics and fans alike to applaud the cinematic brilliance of its work. The Perfect Score is not one of these films. However, for a teen comedy, it does manage to stand above the pack.

As the name implies, a group of students attempt to get the perfect score on their SATs. The SATs are depicted as a nameless, faceless adversary that takes a “crack team” of six high school students to defeat.

The film could be called a teen caper comedy, as the plot is an attempt to break into the evil corporation — brilliantly represented as an actual building — and steal the master copy of the test. Predictably, zany results abound in the process.
As is typical with this genre, every teen stereotype is represented, including the Goth, Jock, Stoner, Brain and the oh-so-bland, yet oh-so-necessary “every teen,” exaggerating the rest of the archetypes.

In its cheesier moments, the film resembles a modern day Breakfast Club. Soul-wrenching confessions allow the teens to form a tighter bond and become better thieves as a result. Doesn’t make sense? Well, it is a teen comedy, after all.

The Perfect Score is an MTV film, so pop culture references arise almost ad nauseam — the film is just a re-hash of more successful films from the past.

That being said, it does manage to provide several entertaining moments. The vast majority of these belong to Roy (Nam), a newcomer to feature films. Playing the Stoner in the group, he is able to use his almost Zen-like knowledge — reminiscent of Patrick Swayze in Roadhouse — to appear as the smartest of the sextet.

Also adding to the humour is Matthew Lillard, who plays Kyle’s (Evans) brother. His character injects some humour into the otherwise slow start of the film.
Johanssen, the female lead in the film, is also impressive. While not living up to her Lost In Translation performance, she does manage to make the best of her screen time. This is no discredit to her, mind you, as the characters in the film aren’t very deep to begin with — she did the best with what she was given.

The best scenes in the movie have nothing to do with the actual heist, but with dialogue about the triviality of the SAT process. As a director, Robbins catches the full range of emotions that teens deal with when placed under stress about their future.

Although this film is about cheating on SATs, it never really tells you how to go about doing so. Perhaps more importantly, The Perfect Score doesn’t make the audience want to leave the theatre and actually learn something.

Yet, despite this, it does manage to be fairly entertaining and a good way to pass a few hours, as long as you check your brain at the door. Audiences shouldn’t expect anything beyond what the film advertises: a teen film/pop culture rip-off/caper flick — with a heart.



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