Ocean's Eleven meets The Breakfast Club as six ambitious high school seniors hatch a plot to steal the answers to the SAT and advance with ease to the colleges of their choice.
For the record, I scored an 1110 on my SAT, which was fine with me. Then again, I wasn't nearly as motivated as these kids during my senior year. Though they run in different social circles, the scheming students of The Perfect Score are united by one common denominator - the SAT stands in the way of their career aspirations.
Their leader is Kyle (Chris Evans), a budding architect who plans to attend Cornell for its advanced architectural program. His best friend Matty (Bryan Greenberg) needs to get into the University of Maryland so he can be reunited with his college freshman sweetheart. Their extracurricular quest attracts basketball sensation Desmond (NBA star Darius Miles), who needs to boost his own SAT score so he can play college ball at St. John's.
Score starts off strong, as director Brian Robbins rockets through character introductions and plot points. He even pauses occasionally to make relevant comments about the unfair emphasis placed on standardized testing. The movie benefits from a few wild cards, though some work better than others. Scarlett Johansson and Erika Christensen, two actresses known for accepting meatier dramatic roles, bring refreshing charms to their spoiled rich kid and class salutatorian parts. Each gets involved in Kyle's scam for different reasons I won't reveal here.
Then there's the inevitable comic relief in the form of Roy (Leonard Nam), a stoner who accidentally stumbles on Kyle's master plan. Nam doesn't invent this dazed space cadet so much as he borrows him from Sean Penn's Jeff Spicoli and the legendary Long Duk Dong from Sixteen Candles.
Roy's not the only reference to movies of the past. There are tributes to countless films Score idolizes, including a stale Matrix routine that still got a few laughs from my preview audience. Perhaps the statute of limitations has passed on lampooning the Wachowski brothers. Paying homage to these films, though, doesn't put you in their league. Score lacks the wisdom of Amy Heckerling (Clueless) and the insight of John Hughes (Pretty in Pink). It carelessly leaps over massive plot holes yet always seems to land on its feet. The heist relies heavily on coincidences, and the second half bogs down in forced relationships and obvious Public Service Announcements for the teen audience (hey kids, don't do drugs).
What's surprising, though, is how far Score can coast on the allure of its likeable leads. Evans and Greenberg are casual partners in crime. Miles is more of an athlete than an actor, but Johansson fashions a memorably acidic personality that fits this material perfectly.
DVD extras are limited to a filmmaker commentary and the usual making-of short.
Or try studying.