The Perfect Score


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Scarlett Johansson as Francesca
Erika Christensen as Anna
Chris Evans as Kyle
Bryan Greenberg as Matty
Darius Miles as Desmond
Leonardo Nam as Roy
Rob Boyce as Guard
Fulvio Cecere as Francesca’s Father
Robert Clarke as Arnie Branch
Kyle Labine as Dave
Matthew Lillard as Kyle’s Brother
Bill Mackenzie as Bernie

Teens will enjoy The Perfect Score, but there’s not a lot here for older audiences.

After having received poor scores on the SAT, five students panic before taking the retest. Kyle is desperate to get into his favorite college and attend architecture school, but his scores are well below the admission requirements. Anna is an overachiever who took the test and completely choked. Matty is trying to get a score high enough to join his girlfriend in college on the East Coast. Roy is the school stoner and though he’s smart, he hasn’t applied himself to his studies. Desmond is the star basketball player for the school and needs a minimum SAT score to get into St. Johns.

When Kyle and Matty come up with a plan to steal the answers to the SAT, the other students are roped into the scheme as well. They must also recruit Francesca in order to gain access to the building where the scores are kept. Her main motivation for joining the crew is to screw her father and the system.

As the kids put their plans in motion, they find that even the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. But do they really need to pass the SAT to have their dreams come true?

The Perfect Score is rated PG-13 for language, sexual content and some drug references.

What Worked:
This movie is obviously going to have appeal to its target audience – high school students. What kid hasn’t fantasized about swiping the answers to the SAT? Who hasn’t panicked before this big test? From that point of view, The Perfect Score works because it plays that fantasy out on screen.

While most of the cast is unremarkable, the standout is Leonardo Nam as Roy. He adds much needed humor to the story as the stoner / genius kid. His bizarre looks and amusing comments keep things rolling. Roy’s ineptitude mixed with flashes of brilliance make him a unique character. His horrible attempts at seducing an older woman are pretty funny. His reaction to finally having to deal with authority is also amusing.

What Didn’t Work:
Overall, the movie isn’t great, but it isn’t terrible either. It’s just there. It had moments of humor, but they weren’t very frequent. There were times when I thought the plot was really going to take off, then it didn’t go anywhere. For example, early in the movie the kids get their hands on the answers only to lose them again. I thought, “Aha! They’re going to do a Coyote and Roadrunner bit!” While that could have worked, it’s not the path they chose.

The acting is also middle of the road. Scarlett Johansson and Erika Christensen are both excellent actresses, but they don’t do much that is impressive in The Perfect Score. NBA star Darius Miles is also pretty wooden as Desmond. Even co-star Matthew Lillard starts out with a really funny performance only to have it fizzle by the end.

The Perfect Score also sends out wildly conflicting messages to its young, impressionable audience. If you’re avoiding spoilers, turn away now. Otherwise keep on reading. By the end, the kids successfully steal the scores, then they decide to do the “right thing” and not use them. However, they forget that fact that each of the kids has worked half of the test, so they already know the answers to at least half the questions. In reality, they are still cheating on the test. So is cheating bad or good? Seems like the movie can’t decide. The film also makes Roy the funniest, most appealing character in the film. The whole time he’s shown getting high and acting stoned and irresponsible. However, at the very end we’re told that smoking weed is bad. Huh? They just spent an hour and a half making it look cool only to spend one minute at the end saying it’s bad. Which is it? They also rant and rail against the SAT because standardized tests are evil, yet in the end the kids do good on the test and live happily ever after. Maybe the SAT isn’t so evil after all?

I also have to admit that I’m not terribly sympathetic to these characters. So they can’t get a good grade on the SAT and go to the school they want. Big deal. Go somewhere else then transfer over later. Yes, you will probably never use 80% of what you’re test on in the real world. Yes, a good score doesn’t always mean you’re dumb. However, if you can’t study for the test and pass it, chances are you’re going to have a hard time staying in college anway.

The Bottom Line:
The Perfect Score will probably be a huge hit for its target audience. High school kids should enjoy it. However, anyone who has finished school and left the SAT way in their past will probably not be keen to revisit their misery.