The Perfect Score
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir Brian Robbins
scr Mark Schwahn, Marc Hyman, Jon Zack
with Chris Evans, Bryan Greenberg, Scarlett Johansson, Erika Christensen, Darius Miles, Leonardo Nam, Matthew Lillard, Tyra Ferrell, Iris Quinn, Lynda Boyd, Rob Boyce, Kyle Labine
release US 30.Jan.04, UK 19.Mar.04
04/US 1h33

Plan of action: Evans, Greenberg and Johansson.

johansson christensen lillard
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This "Breakfast Club meets Mission Impossible" caper has a strong cast and an intriguing premise, both of which are lost in weak writing and direction. It's not as if we expect much from director Robbins (Hard Ball, Varsity Blues), but these up-and-coming young actors should've spotted this dud script from a mile off.

The plot centres on mismatched students united by one thing: their desperation to get good marks on the dreaded SAT exam. We have the smart guy (Not Another Teen Movie's Evans), the good-time boy (One Tree Hill's Greenberg), the class brain (Swimfan's Christensen), the rebellious rich girl (shooting-star Johansson), the promising jock (Van Wilder's Miles) and the stoner geek (Nobody's Perfect's Nam). Each needs a high score to get into their chosen university, so they join together to raid the SAT offices and get the test answers. Conveniently, the offices are right in their hometown!

Exams like the SAT raise questions about racial and economic justice, as well as the idea that a single test can make or break a young person's life. But this film only throws those concerns around briefly before getting into the wacky business of mixing up high school social groups and trying to sneak off with the answers. The main problem is that the film is so toothless that we know it will never even remotely deal with the issues it raises. So when it even cops out on its own plot in the end, we're not remotely surprised.

Fortunately, the cast is watchable. Even when delivering trite dialog, Johansson and Christensen command the screen, adding just a bit of subtext to their characters. And the guys keep up with them adequately; although side characters like Lillard's goofy big brother and a trio of pushy mothers (Ferrell, Quinn and Boyd) are a bit overdone. The main problem is Robbins' refusal to treat any theme with any depth at all--even the two romantic subplots are superficial. So in the end it's just another forgettable teen caper movie.

cert 12 themes, language, innuendo 23.Feb.04

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2004 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall