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Rated 2.97 stars
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ReelTalk Movie Reviews
A Failing Grade
by Adam Hakari

Good morning, class. For those of you unfamiliar with me, I'm Professor Hakari, and this is Teen Movies 101. Yesterday we finished covering the Industrial Revolution (a.k.a. the John Hughes Period), and today we're dealing with  the status of movies geared toward teenage audiences of the new millennium. Let's take a look at our first subject, The Perfect Score, from Varsity Blues director Brian Robbins.

First, let's analyze the film's story. According to most authorities, The Perfect Score is the first movie to address a topic many teens fear: taking the S.A.T. exam. The plot  revolves around a group of students who, for one reason or another, have animosity relating to the dreaded test. Kyle (Chris Evans) wishes to be an architect, but he finds his test scores are too low for the college of his choice. Matty (Bryan Greenberg) has been turned down by the university his girlfriend attends. Class brain Anna (Erika Christensen) froze up while elaborating on a question during her first go at the exam. Desmond (Darius Miles) fears however his scores turn
out might effect his status as a potential NBA superstar. The rebellious Francesca (Scarlett Johansson) is just plain bored with the world. And stoner Roy (Leonardo Nam) just goes along with the scheme when he and the aforementioned students band together to pull off the most dangerous stunt
in their lives: stealing the answers to the S.A.T., ensuring that they'll determine the course of their lives instead of what a test score says.

Not a bad start, as you can see. The Perfect Score nicely builds up an array of characters from different backgrounds on the high school social ladder and puts them in a situation where they're all equal and in the same boat -- a welcome  attempt to inject a little social commentary into the barren teen movie market. Unfortunately, the film fails to maintain this status beyond a good ten minutes. Instead, the characters transform into one-note stereotypes whose personalities are more memorable than their names, and the story hardly evokes any sympathy for them when things get all Breakfast Club on us following the hour and twenty minutes where the main characters are engaged in teeny-bopper thievery.

The film's last act does more harm than good, and without spoiling anything, I have to say it left me angry because it was too predictable. And, for a film that begins as a smart and edgy teen tale, preachy and bland was the last thing The Perfect Score should have become. 

This leads us to the acting area, which, sadly, doesn't produce any better results than the screenplay and its wasted potential. Still, some of the performances weren't half-bad. Erika Christensen had a bright turn as an intelligent student sick of being pressured to be perfect, and Scarlett Johansson, though nowhere near as great as she was in Lost in Translation, was amusing to watch as the class rebel who helps out in the heist for the fun of it. However, the males in the cast were not as charming -- evidenced by how interchangeable Evans and Greenbergs' characters felt, how flatly Miles played his role, and how Nam tried hard to be funny as an underachiever with a 0.0 GPA but came off as merely irritating instead. 

Finally, how shall we classify Mr. Robbins's direction of this half-baked caper comedy? In one word -- unimaginative. He keeps the pace fairly dull during the comedic moments and in the elongated heist sequence, both of which are areas where the potential for great ideas to emerge go to waste. During his
career, Robbins has alternated between elaborately-designed films (Good Burger) and subtle projects (Hardball). The Perfect Score belongs in the latter group, but its inventive story needed a dash of pizzazz to keep it from being carried out in such a dull fashion. 

So, there you have it. A textbook example of your basic bad teen movie, a project with all of the ingredients set in place but lacking any of the effort necessary to combine them into a delicious dish. The film's young stars will inevitably move onto bigger and better projects in their careers, but The Perfect Score isn't something that's likely to get them noticed.

That does it for today's lesson. We'll continue with our unit tomorrow when we cover the Dark Ages -- also known as the Freddie Prinze Jr. Dynasty. Class dismissed.

MY RATING: * (out of ****)

(Released by Paramount Pictures and rated "PG-13" for language, sexual content and some drug references.)

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