ninth symphony films - movie reviews


DIRECTOR  -  brian robbins

RATED  -  pg

GENRE  -  comedy

LENGTH  -  103 minutes

RELEASED  -  30 january 2004

DISTRIBUTOR  -  paramount pictures

OFFICIAL SITE  -  the perfect score



buy the dvd from the perfect score at

buy the dvd from the perfect score at

a group of seven high school seniors decide to steal the answers to the s.a.t.


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mike jarvis plays himself as the head basketball coach at st. johns university, but by the time the movie was released he had been fired as the university's head.



two out of four possible stars

The creators of The Perfect Score have taken a group of actors with varying degrees of theatrical ability and have shoved them into a film filled with a rather large portion of cliché characterizations and flat dialogue. Which is unfortunate, because tucked deep into the recesses of this film exist some rather witty jokes. But those high points are definitely few and far between, as the film proceeds in quite a scattered fashion after a very shaky start. The idea of the film - six high school students deciding to become crooks in order to ace the highly important SAT entrance exam - seems to have been a good jumping-off point, but not much happens over the course of the film that could be labeled innovative or gripping.

Credit should be given to the cast for each actor seems to have accomplished as much as was possible with the material given them. But it strains credibility to see just how cliché and standard each of the characters is. There's the over-achieving perfect-attendance type girl (Erika Christensen playing "Anna"), the minority basket-ball star who faces the prospect of going pro right out of high school or attending college instead (Darius Miles playing "Desmond"), there's the "idiot" who unintentionally ends up uttering the most pertinent sentences in a scene (Leonardo Nam playing "Roy"), the rebel girl (Scarlett Johansson playing "Francesca"), and the cute boy next door type (Chris Evans playing "Kyle") all who have the daunting task of taking the SAT, the college entrance exam required of all applicants to United States colleges.

The highest performance scores in the film definitely belong to Leonardo Nam and Scarlett Johansson, both who play the most intense and animated characters in the film. Though perhaps their performances were stand-out because of the overall comatose feeling that permeates the film. Darius Miles, though his character is anything but unique, nevertheless makes the jump from the professional basketball world to the feature film screen with ease, though one might argue that a basketball player in America today is as much of a performer as any actor in a Hollywood film, so perhaps his move from ball to film wasn't such a large jump.

Every one of these characters has had time on screen before. In multiple films portrayed in exactly the same way. This specific group of characters has probably even been stuck together in the same narrative before. Each person has a different personality yet each of those personalities is as common to the screen as curse words in a Jay and Silent Bob movie. And although the overall theme of the film, that a perfect SAT score does not a perfect life make, seems a valuable life lesson for any number of present day teens, too little is done with making the presentation of the film an entertaining one to really make the "lesson learned" a lesson worth watching.

As the movie is an MTV film, slick production values on a limited budget are to be had, with each of the cast members sporting a rather beautiful face (the males and the females), and with the "hip" wardrobe, if you can't find something interesting to listen to, at least the clothing will keep you occupied. The cinematography is competently done, though one has to wonder about the jumpy editing - the story just doesn't flow smoothly for the run of the picture. But this concern is not dire, since the movie is by no means an epic length (coming in at just over 100 minutes with credits, the picture is tidy). But one cannot help thinking that a few minutes snipped off of a variety of scenes might have made the laughs seem more consistent.

This film's legitimate criticism of the current incarnation of the SAT is a valid argument, but it seems too often that the filmmakers could not decide in which direction they wished to take the story. They trot into the realm of the inane and hilarious (or what they believe is hilarious) and then back into the serious implications of the test without exploring either side of the drama and entertainment too deeply. The bottom line is that everything in this film needed to be more extreme. The characters needed to be more vibrant, the comedy needed to be funnier, the drama needed to grab you by the throat. After all, the film attempts to market itself as a heist movie, but doesn't come close to garnering a suitable amount of nail-biting from the audience.

Where this film would feel most at home would be the DVD player in your living room's home theater. It's a movie that won't really make you "think" (as the lesson is far too obvious to have any staying power) that just doesn't have enough laughs to warrant a trip to the box office. Cutting down the performances from the group teen actors (well, most of them are in their twenties, actually) seems a waste of time, as the actors really didn't have that much to grab on to in the first place to make their characters really memorable. The film isn't quirky enough to make you laugh, it's not smart enough to make you think, and it's not charming enough to make you stick to your seat without more than one glance at your watch.

Review by Kelsey Wyatt

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