Wednesday, February 11, 2004

The Perfect Score

Posted By on Wed, Feb 11, 2004 at 12:00 AM

When Cameron Crowe went undercover as a high school student to write a little novel called Fast Times at Ridgemont High, little did he know that it would later become a quintessential teen flick, required-viewing for American prepubesents. It was raw and funny, and most importantly, it was honest. Just a few years later came John Hughes with The Breakfast Club, and the precedent was matched. The two writers didn’t paint pictures of how kids should be or could be, but presented kids as they actually are, what they live every day.

Perhaps it’s a stretch to go back to these films in order to figure out the cyber-tech teens of today. But no matter how different the world is, most kids still deal with feelings of alienation, parental pressures, drugs and the uncertainty that comes from not knowing how the hell to achieve, or to break away from the future that has been set out for them. Only a portion of an honest portrait of all these swirling emotions is presented in The Perfect Score. Sure, the kids in the movie theater that I was in seemed to enjoy the film. But is it themselves that they see on the screen, or just people of their own age doing stuff they wish they could do? Is it a kind of 90210 for the big screen?

The plot, stealing answers to the SAT, is a sure bet for a studio looking for a teen hit. Unfortunately, it didn’t require much acting ability or expert cinematography to get the film through the major motion picture wringer in order to make it to a theater near you. There are three characters worth watching: Scarlett Johansson as the troubled and oh-so-cute poor little rich girl with integrity; Leonardo Nam as the narrator and happy-go-lucky pot-smoking genius, and Matthew Lillard as the troubled yet compassionate older brother. The film would have been better if the plot had centered only on these three characters. Instead, there is the good-looking, academically driven cool guy played by Chris Evans, his not so scholastically inclined best friend played by Bryan Greenberg, the dumb jock played by Darius Miles and the ever-annoying salutatorian played by Erika Christensen. What about the parents? Well, they are barely seen except for Miles’ character’s mother who delivers an irritating “Don’t Smoke Pot” PSA near the film’s end.

The absence of parental guidance may ring true for today’s teenagers, but the brief appearances by parents in the film were so poor they could have been improved if they were dubbed over with the Charlie Brown grown-up voices going, “Wah, Wah, Wah.”

I’m not saying don’t go and see this film, per se, but if you do spend the $8, make sure there is some THC in your system. You’ll get more out of it.

Gina Pasfield is an editorial intern at Metro Times. E-mail letters@metrotimes.com.

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