After all these years, the creators and administrators of the SAT still have plenty of explaining to do. How well does the test taken by millions of high school students measure aptitude? How fair is it? Why is this single test so important to a student's future?
In The Perfect Score, a lackluster comic drama from MTV, it's a short leap from questioning the SAT to rationalizing cheating on the test.
"They are not playing fair," co-conspirator Matty (Bryan Greenberg) tells several would-be accomplices in a plot to break into Educational Testing Service headquarters in New Jersey. "Why should we?"
Director Brian Robbins, who dealt with teenage characters in Varsity Blues and Good Burger, won't necessarily be accused of fair play: His latest film, shot three years ago in Canada, stayed on the shelf long enough for one of its leads _ Scarlett Johansson (Lost in Translation, Girl With a Pearl Earring) _ to win critical acclaim.
Would this movie have played the big screen if Johansson's career hadn't taken off? A straight-to-video release might have made more sense.
Johansson, like Greenberg, Erika Christensen and the others, plays a stereotype. Francesca (Johansson) is a street-smart, Web-savvy brunette bad girl, tough on the exterior but secretly vulnerable because of her troubling home life. Her opposite (in best Screenwriting 101 fashion) is blond, brainy Anna (Christensen of Traffic), second in her class, buoyed by perhaps a little too much parental support, and determined to shed her goody-two-shoes image.
The sextet of partners in crime also includes Matty, forever pining for his girlfriend, already away at college; aspiring architect Kyle (Chris Evans); African-American basketball talent Desmond (Darius Miles); and Roy (Leonardo Nam), a wisecracking, pot-smoking Asian-American goofball on the prowl for sexual adventure. Nam gets the best lines, and he delivers them with style.
Just like in John Hughes' The Breakfast Club (referenced by Francesca), these freaks, geeks and overachievers eventually learn to get along with each other. And romance blossoms unexpectedly.
But not until after the kids complete the heist, masterminded by Kyle. The break-in itself comes off as absurdly easy, and then it's on to an inner office at ETS, where the teenagers are forced to work together to answer the test questions.
So what do they do with the stolen test? The upshot is an unimaginative cop-out. Even worse is this movie's version of kids doing the right thing: The logic is as flawed as anything related to the college admissions process.
The Perfect Score
Director: Brian Robbins
Cast: Erika Christensen, Chris Evans, Bryan Greenberg, Scarlett Johansson, Darius Miles, Leonardo Nam
Screenplay: Mark Schwahn, Marc Hyman, Jon Zack
Rating: PG-13; language, sexual content, drug references
Running time: 93 min.