The Perfect Score comes up short both as a teen flick and as a caper. While it might have marginal appeal to a certain young audience, watching it is certainly less engaging than actually taking the SAT, the infamous college entrance examination which provides the subject matter of the movie.
Brought to the screen by Brian Robbins (the purveyor of the television teen drama Smallville and the film Varsity Blues), The Perfect Score has a simple premise: six kids conspire to steal the answers to the test in hopes of obtaining high enough scores to lead them to their desired colleges–and futures.
Unfortunately, the students don’t stray too far from the mold. Kyle (Chris Evans) is an aspiring architect, a good student who dreams of going to Cornell, but on his first time taking the test falls a couple of hundred points shy of the score required for admission there. His female counterpart Anna (Erika Christensen) is the class salutatorian whose overbearing parents push her to go to Brown, even though her fantasy, and initial score on the test, indicate she’d be better off elsewhere.
Kyle’s best friend Matty (Bryan Greenberg), a mediocre student, simply wants to join his girlfriend at a state university. Desmond (Darius Miles), a star basketball player under the thumb of his wise mother, needs the fairly modest score of 900 (1600 is perfect) to get into the college where he is invited to play before he goes pro. Francesca (Scarlett Johansson), who dresses punk, handily is the daughter of the sleazy guy who runs the outfit that publishes the SAT. She joins the fun just because she’s a rebel. Meanwhile, stoner Roy (Leonardo Nam) gets in on the plan only because he overhears Kyle and Matty talking about it in the school’s rest room.
The various trespasses the kids commit on the testing service office are nothing short of preposterous, which might be fine if the filmmakers clearly intended The Perfect Score to be nothing more than a crazy caper. Yet the shenanigans aren’t fun or even interesting. On his first attempt to get the test, Kyle, disguised as an office boy, actually comes in possession of his prize. But instead of photocopying it, he puts it in the paper shredder. (A kid that careless doesn’t deserve to get into Cornell!)
Of course, getting past the clueless security guard and complex electronic security system is all in a day’s work for these kids, too. The humor falls as flat as the hackneyed plot contrivances. And while it’s initially refreshing to see the Asian guy as something other than a nerd, alternatively making him the cliched stoner is annoying and just short of insulting. There’s nothing worse than a clown who’s not funny. Pulling off the movie’s meager genuine moments are Johanssen, who simply rises above the weak material, and Miles, who displays a real warmth that makes Des’s predicament seem all the more human than those of his compatriots.
Strangely, Robbins and writers Marc Hyman, Jon Zack and Mark Schwahn even try to inject a little humanity into the proceedings, which results in the biggest thud of all. In the end, The Perfect Score doesn’t have the bite of Election, the outrageousness of American Pie or the earnestness of The Breakfast Club. While it might evoke mild amusement for the most average college-bound high-school kid, The Perfect Score flunks when tallied as entertainment for a general audience.
– Leslie Katz