The Perfect Score Review
By Shawn McKenzie 01/31/2004
Brian Robbins and Mike Tollin frustrate me. They co-produce such cool TV shows like “Smallville” and “What I Like About You,” yet when they direct movies, they are just okay. Tollin recently directed the gratuitously sappy Radio, and Robbins is now bringing us the MTV Film The Perfect Score. This one looked promising in the trailer, but it isn’t worth paying full price to see.
Kyle (Chris Evans) is a high school student who wants to go to Cornell to study architecture, but only scored a little over a thousand on the Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT), and he needs to score at least a 1430 out of a perfect 1600 to get in. He doesn’t want to end up like his loser older brother Larry (Matthew Lillard) who is still living at home in a room above the garage. His best friend, Matty (Bryan Greenberg), wants to go to the University of Maryland to be with his girlfriend Sandy, but is also having a tough time getting an acceptable SAT score. They make a plan to steal the answer key book from the nearby Educational Testing Service (ETS) building and use it to take the test. They figure that they need to involve Francesca (Scarlett Johansson), the daughter of the owner of the building (Fulvio Cecere), in order for their plan to succeed. She is more than willing to help, since she doesn’t get along with her dad. Kyle also thinks that Anna (Erika Christensen) should be involved (he has a little crush on her also), but Matty and Francesca don’t think that she should be in on it because she’s the second smartest student in school with a 4.0 GPA. They think that she’s a little goody two shoes and she would squeal on them. Anna does want to be involved, because, despite her perfect GPA, she freezes while taking the SAT and is afraid that she won’t get into Brown like her parents are hoping. While discussing the plan one day in the high school bathroom, they accidentally pick up another participant in Roy (Leonardo Nam), a stoner who overhears them. He doesn’t care about the test, but thinks the plan sounds like fun, so he wants to join in. The last person to join the group is basketball star Desmond (Portland Trail Blazers NBA player Darius Miles) who could go straight to the pros, but promised his mother (Tyra Ferrell) he’ll go to college first. He isn’t dumb, but he needs a 900 or better on the SAT to secure his scholarship to St. Johns, and isn’t sure he can get it. They run into various obstacles while formulating their plan, and along the way, they question what exactly they do want for their futures.
Almost every other review I’ve read of this movie is comparing it to The Breakfast Club. Seeing as that The Breakfast Club was a seminal movie in my growing up, I have a hard time seeing the similarity. Sure, both of them are about a group of misfits contemplating their futures, but The Breakfast Club was more of a claustrophobic (in a good way) experience, because it took place in one place over the course of one day. There was more dialogue about their emotions and feelings, and less about any attempt to cheat. This movie takes place over a couple of weeks in various places, and is mainly about the plan to steal the SAT key. Those other reviews also try to pair up which character in this movie is the equivalent of their counterpart in Club. Both sets of characters are so drastically different in my mind that you really have to stretch to make a comparison. For example…they both have a stoner, but Club’s John Bender had a bad attitude, while this movie’s Roy is happy and laid back. I just don’t think that the two films are in any way the same.
Just because I don’t think that it is ripping off The Breakfast Club doesn’t mean I liked it. It wasn’t bad, but it just didn’t have that spark to make me love it. It wasn’t funny enough to crack me up, and the emotional parts didn’t exactly tug at my heartstrings. At least it is the first Johansson movie in the last year that didn’t bore me to tears, as her supposed “good” movies Lost in Translation and Girl with a Pearl Earring did.
I think I might be generous in giving The Perfect Score an above average rating. It might make a good rental, but I wouldn’t see it in the theater. Former “Head of the Class” alum Robbins might want to lay off directing for a little while and go back to producing cool TV shows for the WB network.
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