A review of “The Perfect Score” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: * 1/2

Rating: PG-13 for language and mild sexuality

Run Time: 1 hour, 33 minutes

 

 

Winter quarter signals the beginning of crackdown for high school juniors, a time to get serious about studies and prep for that painful bastion of standardized testing, the SAT. My second child is in the throes of that dastardly demon of a college qualifier, and it’s no picnic.

Both of my jobs come into play on this one. As a parent and a critic I can spot a classic underachiever a mile off.

Kyle (Chris Evans) is finishing out high school with big dreams of attending Cornell University and its architecture program.  His proud parents are thrilled when Kyle announces an SAT score of 1430 (out of a perfect 1600), far exceeding the disappointing 1150 he actually scored.

Forced to recover his footing, Kyle enlists the help of a handful of fellow students in equally sticky situations.  Anna (Erika Christensen), the class success story who freezes during standardized tests, best friend Matty (Bryan Greenberg), determined to join his girlfriend at University of Maryland, and class flunky Roy (Leonardo Nam) a directionless stoner cum math wizard.

Also along for the ride is superstar hoopster Desmond (Darius Miles), who needs to score over 900 to be accepted to St. John’s’ elite basketball program. Head of operations:  fiercely independent faux-punker Francesca (Scarlett Johansson), whose philandering daddy owns the building that houses the venerable ETS (Educational Testing Services).

Desperate times call for desperate measures, thus teen angst segues into teen heist.  The plucky group is going for the gold, by breaking into the ETS offices and stealing test answers for the SAT. The significance reeks of desperation born of hypocrisy: “To hell with them if they want to put a number on my dream!”

I say to hell with them for letting me take a bullet in the name of teen entertainment. Score’s most glaring flaw is that it lacks originality.  Orange County and Better Luck Tomorrow both dealt with the touchy subject of academic pressure with humor and pathos, while John Hughes’ The Breakfast Club delivered the goods with regards to mixed-up misfits.  Score flounders about in a flux of narrative indecision and juvenile confusion, and then tacks on a whopper of a climactic cop-out.

Performances are wooden and self-conscious, in particular those of Miles (awkward) and Christensen (deer-in-the-headlights).  A cute and effective fantasy sequence flash-forwards to college dreams, but it’s gone as quick as you can say “Loser”.