The Perfect Score
For this week’s Trash or Treasure I dug into my own personal collection of movies and watched 2004’s The Perfect Score. The movie is about a group of six teenagers (just like Zombeavers! Wow!) who plan to steal the S.A.T answers before their upcoming S.A.T. On the surface it sounds like a stupid movie, but once you discover it was directed by the Brian Robbins, of Norbit fame, you realize – yes, you are in for a stupid movie.
Actually, when I first heard of this movie I was intrigued by the cast list. The film stars Chris Evans and Scarlett Johansson, as well as some other up and coming stars from shows like One Tree Hill and Parenthood. At this you might think that movie was destined for greatness; it even has the guy that plays Shaggy in the live-action Scooby-Doo movies! It was destined to be the crime thriller that every teen in the early 2000s didn’t know they wanted while listening to Sum 41. I mean, how could anything starring Chris Evans or Scarlett Johansson be bad?
The film opens with possibly the best line in the film: “S. A. T. Suck ass test”. Which anyone can confirm that that’s really what those letters stand for. We proceed to get silly expositional narration about how the SATs hate everyone including the protagonist of our heist film, Kyle, and his stereotypical love interest, Anna. At this point, a viewer who’s taken the SAT or most any standardized test will point out that Kyle blatantly looks over at Anna’s test booklet in the middle of the test. I know it’s so they can connect about how they hate the test or some bullshit, but in real life Kyle would get a fucking zero.
He’s looking at her test booklet I swear.
Once the narration ends, there’s an onslaught of exposition that begins when we’re introduced to Kyle’s best friend Matty, and doesn’t end until, well, the movie does. There’s a whole group of scenes where Matty finds out he hasn’t been accepted to his girlfriend’s college, Kyle and Matty bitch about the test, and Matty finds out his girlfriend has been cheating on him. Matty decides, reasonably, that it’s the SAT’s fault and that they should steal the test.
After Kyle has a silly nightmare sequence about the SAT where he watches kids tortured with standardized tests, teachers get paid extra for good test scores, and he ends up homeless. Kyle and Matty then bring in the four other characters onto their heist plans for contrived and straight up moronic reasons. The movie decides to give every single one of them just enough of backstory, but not enough to really let us get to know the characters. The Perfect Score is 90 minutes long, and you can tell it’s because they took 60 minutes of expositional scenes and mashed them into one 30 minute onslaught of character development. There’s so many jump cuts it’s like you’re watching an episode of Iron Fist.
Guess whether I think THIS is trash or treasure
I do want to take a moment to talk about the particularly real moments this film presents us with though. The first real life moment happens when basketball star Desmond Rhodes (don’t ask how he got into the picture) is talking with a St. Johns recruiter who tells him they “can work with” his low GPA. If that’s not a shot at the NCAA’s student-athlete agenda, then I don’t know what is. Second, Kyle’s mom tells him “there’s more money in bubbling, than in reading”. This accurately describes the American school system better and in a more clear and concise way than I’ve ever seen, and for that I applaud this film.
Where have you gone, oh great one?
Kyle, Matty, Francesca (Scar-Jo), and Roy, a stoner computer genius with no parents, do some recon at the SAT building that gets them roughly nowhere that Francesca couldn’t have gotten them on her own. They even accidentally shred the SAT answers they were trying to steal because Kyle, the destined to be an architect, and Matty, the kid who knows how to rebuild an engine, don’t know the difference between a fucking copier and a paper shredder. This movie is infuriating in so many ways, but the fact that it could’ve been over in 30 minutes if not for their simple oversight might be the most infuriating….
A simple, yet mysterious looking machine.
They lose hope, then they un-lose hope, then there’s some arguments and Francesca steals the floor plans to the building and suddenly the plan is on again. Somewhere in here there’s another subplot introduced but I stopped caring. There’s an Ocean’s Eleven-like sequence where they meet up at Kyle’s brother’s party and go through their plan by narrating over scenes of them “actually” doing the heist. I put “actually” in quotes because the scenes are actually shitty parodies of other movies, including Scarlett Johansson pretending to be Trinity from The Matrix, kicking ass in a black catsuit like she never would again.
There’s a silly romantic subplot scene, followed by the beginning of their heist, which surprisingly goes off without a hitch. Matty, Kyle, and Francesca manage to break into the SAT building through their Ocean’s-esque plan and then stumble their way to the exact location they need to be. I mean, these are six high school students that somehow stay out super late on a school night and their parents do nothing.
The real villain here is bad parenting.
They Scooby Doo their way to the SAT answers again, somehow avoiding capture by the night watchmen, and discover that they can’t print out the answers like they had hoped. Through a twist of pure stupidity, Anna, Desmond, and Roy the stoner computer genius end up in the office with them. This is the point where you, the viewer, discovers that this film has been nothing but a waste of time.
…but don’t take my word for it.
They can’t print the answers so they take the test, deciding that between the six of them they can get every answer. They then try to escape the building, and Matty sacrifices himself so Francesca can escape, proving to us that he’s gotten over his cheating girlfriend that no one can remember. Matty impressively spends only one night in jail after Francesca bails him out by stealing her dad’s money or something, and the sextet meet up before the SAT to exchange the answers and beat the system. Then every single member of the team decides they don’t want to cheat anymore, and they destroy the answer key.
Me, trying to comprehend the ending of this film.
In the end, everyone gets their way. Kyle goes to some college and hooks up with Anna, Matty becomes an actor or some bullshit and hooks up with Francesca, Desmond goes to college and becomes a basketball star, and Roy becomes a successful video game designer – and all because they didn’t cheat! I think the message of the film is to not cheat, but honestly, the characters in the film basically cheat anyways. The ending leaves you so unsatisfied, that I began to question what I could’ve done in those 90 minutes instead of watching this movie. I could’ve shoveled my driveway, or watched my favorite Futurama episode four times, or played one soccer match straight through. Instead, I watched this movie. Take my advice, and save your 90 minutes and do something more worthwhile.
For example, you could steal the SAT answers.