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College Bored

The Perfect Score adds a neat twist to the heist movie, then bungles it.

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At times, there appears to be a good movie struggling to get out from within The Perfect Score. The heist genre has been in dire need of a fresh twist for some time, and substituting misfit high school students for the usual ex-cons, and the SAT answers for the loot, is a nifty idea. The heist itself is nicely filmed, but unfortunately, getting to it requires sitting through a bunch of noisy crap. Those of us for whom the SAT is a distant memory may not find it in our hearts to be all that sympathetic to a bunch of whiny kids afraid to take a test. We may also wonder why an elaborate break-in at the local testing headquarters would be any less daunting than, say, studying.

"SAT -- suck-ass test, that's what that stands for!" proclaims Roy (Leonardo Nam) at the movie's outset, before introducing us to the cast: Generic White Boys 1 and 2 (Chris Evans and Bryan Greenberg), Big Black Athlete (Portland Trail Blazers player Darius Miles), High-Strung Smart Beauty (Erika Christensen) and Rebellious Rich Girl Gone Goth (Scarlett Johansson, once again flaunting her underwear). Roy initially appears to be a bold attempt at an anti-stereotype -- a stupid Asian! -- but alas, it turns out he's really good at math and video games.

But anyway, about that good movie struggling to get out. That'd be the one in which the characters would be given room to breathe and less-experienced actors Greenberg and Miles might have a chance to make more of an impact next to relatively heavyweight thespians Johansson and Christensen. The perpetually stoned Roy works as a character, but the decision to have him narrate the movie is a disastrous one. Some decent character development is ruined by Nam's slurred voice-over (on top of speedy music and sloppy editing).

Once the gang actually gets together and infiltrates the corporate tower, things get fun. Director Brian Robbins (Varsity Blues) manages some genuine suspense here, and the character interactions feel real, even though odd groupings of this sort don't usually happen in a cliquish high school environment. It's a little too convenient, and annoying, that the white boys are clearly destined to get the girls while the minorities remain chaste, but it's to the credit of both lead actresses that they make the romances believable.

Occasionally, Matthew Lillard wanders onto the set as if from another movie, acting like a total moron. As Evans' older screw-up of a brother, Lillard initially appears to be mentally handicapped, but no one ever actually says he is or provides any reasonable explanation for his grating antics. No doubt he's just doing a favor for a friend -- director Robbins also helmed Lillard's Summer Catch -- but his friend might have been more favored by the Scooby-Doo star's absence. Lillard here competes with his own established body of work to create the most brain-dead character ever to appear onscreen. He doesn't belong in this flick. One stoned doofus is sufficient.

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