Film review: 'The Perfect Score'

Caper is apt, anything but standard

"The Perfect Score"

*** 1/2

PG-13, 93 m Starring Erika Christensen and Scarlett Johansson. Directed by Brian Robbins. Opens tomorrow.

If you thought you'd never hear the words "You look like you need a pimp" in a movie about the Scholastic Aptitude Test, then you filled in the wrong bubble. The cast of "The Perfect Score" is comprised of two stars, Erika Christensen and Scarlett Johansson, and four unknowns who are actually close to the ages of the characters they portray, unlike many teen movies and soap-style dramas.

The ladies and the four guys - Chris Evans, Bryan Greenberg, Darius Miles and Leonardo Nam - dread the exam for different reasons, and have other acronyms to describe their animosity toward the college entrance exam: "Suck A--- Test," "Sick and Twisted" and "Stoned and Toasted."

Based on these sarcastic nicknames, it's easy to assume that in "The Perfect Score," a joint MTV and Paramount Pictures film, the SATs trouble the teenagers. In fact, the six appear to have nothing in common, but find a need for each other in their shared struggle with the SATs.

"The Perfect Score" is the story of six teens who use each other to fulfill their individual dreams. Similar to "The Breakfast Club," the high school stereotypes of popular, good-looking, overachiever, athlete, outcast and average are all characters. In a suspenseful yet humorous plan, the gang plots to steal the questions and answers to the SAT so as not to disappoint themselves or their families.

Three performances of interest include Kyle (Evans), who leads the pack after his best friend Matty's (Greenberg) initial plan. Paralleling Kyle's confidence is Francesca (Johansson), a punky vixen who remains strong even when her father, an employee at the Educational Testing Service, dates women practically her age. The central comedic role is Roy (Nam) who is the epitome of a high school pothead. He calls himself "The Ghost" and could care less about anything except his next bong hit. Roy's humorous narration throughout the movie and his effect on the other characters make him the breakout star of this film. He is reminiscent of Sean Penn's character in "Fast Times at Ridgemont High."

Aside from the acting, the theme of "The Perfect Score" is somewhat controversial, even though it only touches lightly on issues of gender, race and ethnicity. At the beginning of the film, one of the students says, "500 on one section - community college. 800 - Ivy League and driving a Porsche." This idea is at the heart of the film as class-rank No. 2 Anna (Christensen) struggles to pull higher SAT scores that would win her acceptance to Brown. At the same time, Desmond (Miles), whom the group nicknames "All-State," is the star basketball player at their high school whose verbal score is suffering so much that he and his mother are worried about a rejection to play ball at St. John's.

This brings together the point of the movie: Originally, all six teenagers think that "the SAT is not about who you are, it's about who you'll be." Each character is worried that the test will define who they become, when in reality they realize that it doesn't matter so much how you do on the test, but how you do in the long run - hence the clich? "Everything happens for a reason."

The six characters somehow begin to change each other's lives in ways they would never have expected through drama, comedy and romance. The closing song during credits has the appropriate lyrics, "These are the best days of our lives" and "The only thing that matters is following your heart"

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