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Paramount Studios presents
The Perfect Score (2004)

"I would run a no-kill animal shelter. Or, I'd just be a mom. Not just a mother. I would be a real mom. You know, one that cared more about the title of 'parent' than the one on her business card. Or porn."
- Francesca (Scarlett Johannson)

Review By: Nate Meyers   
Published: June 27, 2004

Stars: Chris Evans, Bryan Greenberg
Other Stars: Scarlett Johansson, Erika Christensen, Leonardo Nam, Darius Miles, Tyra Farrell, Matthew Lillard
Director: Brian Robbins

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for language, sexual content, some drug references
Run Time: 01h:32m:43s
Release Date: June 29, 2004
UPC: 097363368342
Genre: comedy


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
C+ C-B+B B-

DVD Review

What makes John Hughes' movies popular is that they have clever scripts and good acting. The Perfect Score is supposed to be The Breakfast Club for the next generation, but it just doesn't work. It is obvious that the director, Brian Robbins, and writers Mark Schwahn, Marc Hyman, and Jon Zack are trying to emulate Hughes' body of work, but their efforts are purely superficial.

A group of six high schoolers fail their SATs and it appears that their futures are ruined. They have only two weeks before the one and only re-test, so instead of studying, they plan to steal the answers. Anybody who has taken the SAT will laugh at this timeline dilemma, since students are free to take the test as often as they like. That's why in real life students take the SAT during their junior year instead of their senior year, unlike our squadron of superstar SAT-stealing high schoolers here.

Kyle (Chris Evans) is the ringleader, who engineers this plot so he can achieve his goal of being an architect. Matty (Bryan Greenberg) is Kyle's best friend, who needs to pass so he can join his girlfriend in college. Francesca (Scarlett Johansson) is the girl whose father owns the building that plays host to the SAT headquarters. Anna (Erika Christensen) is the 4.0 GPA, uptight student who needs to pass this test in order to satisfy her parents' dreams of her going to any Ivy-league school. Desmond (Darius Miles) is the school's hot shot basketball player, but he won't get to play in college unless he does well on the test. And what teenage comedy would be complete without a dope smoking underachiever? Roy (Leonard Nam) serves no purpose to the mission when the crew embarks on stealing the answers, but something tells me he has a hidden skill that will come in handy during a tight spot.

Notice how each character gets only a one-sentence description in the above paragraph? That's because the script fails to develop real human beings. One of the most embarrassing scenes in The Perfect Score is when the crew begins to fall apart. Since this pivotal scene is the first time in the whole movie where all of the characters join together in a single room, maybe it's a sign that this operation is not on the right track. What's even more aggravating is that the characters all complain about the SAT as being either sexist or racist, in a way that makes one think that the filmmakers agree with such sentiments. Frankly, this script could not be more stereotypical of minorities. The black kid is not especially bright, comes from a broken home, and is great at basketball. The Asian kid is a wiz at math and computers. The scene is a little more than just hypocritical when it reams standardized testing for stereotyping while perpetuating every generalization one can think of.

Director Brian Robbins tries to dance a delicate line between teenage comedy and crime caper. For the most part he is unsuccessful. The scenes in the high school are painfully unfunny to endure and the heist scene contains no suspense. There's also the gratuitous use of flashy editing and voice-over narration, something many current movies are struggling with. Robbins appears to have a good sense of camera movement, but his pacing and direction of actors is quite poor. Erika Christensen turned in a terrific performance for Traffic, but she appears to be in a daze as Anna. The intensity that drives a student towards achieving a 4.0 GPA is completely absent from Christensen's performance. The leads are equally unimpressive. Evans and Greenberg over-act for most of the movie, with only a couple of scenes in which they aren't distracting. Only Scarlett Johansson comes off well, giving a performance that is more than her character deserves. As long as Johansson avoids movies like this, she'll be a big star.

Perhaps younger, junior high students will enjoy The Perfect Score. But anybody who has gone through the SAT phase of life will find this to be a flat comedy that fails to capture the hype surrounding those ever-so-important college admission tests. If this movie was the filmmakers' admission into film school, it's doubtful they would be accepted.

Rating for Style: C+
Rating for Substance: C-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: The Perfect Score is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. In an anamorphic, RSDL transfer the image looks pretty good. Colors come across very well, with accurate skin tones and strong detail. Contrast is not especially strong, but it appears as though the cinematography did not contain a great deal to begin with. Some mosquito noise is present during exterior night scenes, but the print is clean apart from that.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno
Dolby Digital
5.1
English, Frenchno


Audio Transfer Review: Presented with both English and French Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks, The Perfect Score sounds good too. The front soundstage is not especially dynamic, but dialogue is clear and strong throughout. Some good use is made of the surround speakers with different songs from the soundtrack, as well as sound effects. There is also a Dolby Stereo 2.0 mix in English.

Audio Transfer Grade: B

 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 14 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
6 Other Trailer(s) featuring Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, Against the Ropes DVD, The Prince and Me DVD, Mean Girls DVD, Timeline DVD, Paycheck DVD
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Brian Robbins, Mark Schwahn
Packaging: other
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL
Layers Switch: 00h:59m:21s

Extras Review: Like many of the Paramount's titles, there is an option on the disc to either head towards the main menu or to see previews. The theatrical trailer for Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow is presented in nonanamorphic 2.35:1 widescreen as a promotion for its release this summer. The other trailers are all for recent or upcoming Paramount DVD releases—Against the Ropes, Mean Girls, The Prince & Me, Timeline, and Paycheck. All of the DVD trailers are in nonanamorphic 1.85:1 widescreen, and all of the trailers are in Dolby Stereo 2.0 surround.

As for the extras relating to The Perfect Score, there is the original theatrical trailer presented in nonanamorphic 1.85:1 widescreen and Dolby Digital 5.1 sound. It isn't an especially exciting trailer, but it's what you'd expect for a teenage comedy. There is also a documentary, Making The Perfect Score (21m:21s), that contains interviews with the six main actors, director Brian Robbins, and writer Mark Schwahn. There is not a great wealth of information provided on techniques used during the production. Instead, the documentary mainly focuses on the relationships between the actors and what everybody did during their free time;in essence, it's a promotional piece. The final extra is a feature-length commentary with director Robbins and screenwriter Schwahn. They speak about the casting process (both of them gush on and on about Scarlett Johansson) and the script's evolution from a drama into a comedy. Robbins explains his reason for keeping the camera moving and Schwahn delves into his writing process. Make sure you to turn the volume up when listening to this commentary, because it is a very quiet audio track.

Extras Grade: B-

 

Final Comments

The Perfect Score is a dud. It has bad acting, writing, and direction. As a comedy it delivers no laughs and as a crime caper it delivers no thrills. This DVD, from Paramount, has a nice transfer preserving the original theatrical image and a fine Dolby Digital 5.1 mix. The extras are better than the movie deserves, but aren't anything that make this title worth owning.

 


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