'The Perfect Score' falls far short of the mark

Poor Scarlett Johansson — this is simply not her week. First, she gets shut out of the Oscar nominations despite lovely work in two films last year ("Lost in Translation" and "Girl with a Pearl Earring"). Second, she has to endure the release of this limp teen comedy made back in 2002, in which director Brian Robbins tells us exactly what he thinks of her character by introducing her with an under-the-desk crotch shot.

Yes, Sofia Coppola began "Lost in Translation" with a soft-focus shot of Johansson in her underwear; but the two scenes are worlds apart.

In Coppola's film, the moment doesn't feel prurient, but rather lovely; we're seeing a private moment of a young woman lounging, her mind clearly someplace else. Robbins, instead, gives us a cheap peek of open legs and underwear. It gets a quick laugh, sets the character firmly into a stereotype, and is certainly easier than creating a lovely image or writing actual dialogue. Sigh.

Anyway, "The Perfect Score" is sort of like "The Breakfast Club Has Trouble With Its SATs and Hatches a Dimwitted Plan," though that title likely wouldn't play well at the multiplexes. In the opening scenes, we meet the various members of this particular high-school gang: Francesca the Sexy Rebel (Johansson), Anna the Good Girl (Erika Christensen), Kyle the Hunk (Chris Evans), Roy the Stoner (Leonardo Nam), Desmond the Jock (Darius Miles) and a nondescript kid I can only categorize as Matty the Other Guy (Bryan Greenberg).

Movie review

Showtimes and trailer

"The Perfect Score," with Erika Christensen, Chris Evans, Bryan Greenberg, Scarlett Johansson, Darius Miles, Leonardo Nam. Directed by Brian Robbins, from a screenplay by Mark Schwahn, Marc Hyman and Jon Zack. 93 minutes. Rated PG-13 for language, sexual content and some drug references. Several theaters.

All are having various issues with their SATs; all agree that stealing the test would certainly beat studying. So — duh — off they go to SAT headquarters, which conveniently happens to be nearby and in a building owned by Francesca's dad (who dates younger women and neglects his daughter, hence the Sexy Rebel behavior). Soon enough, Kyle and Matty find the test handed to them, which strains believability enough, but they promptly stick it in a shredder, because ... well, we're only at the 40-minute mark and movies like this have to last at least 90 minutes, I guess.

After an elaborate and completely implausible break-in, the kids eventually learn the error of their ways (sort of), but not soon enough.

The screenplay, which has a written-by-committee feel to it (three writers are credited), is neither particularly funny nor suspenseful; the characters never emerge from the type-bound cages in which the writers have firmly placed them. And the acting is all over the place: Johansson occasionally finds some of the hilarious deadpan she exhibited in "Ghost World," but Miles, a basketball player making his acting debut, is clearly a rank amateur whose director isn't skilled enough to help him.

Kids facing the SAT in real life may appreciate this movie, if only because it'll make them feel so much smarter than these characters. For the rest of us, it flunks.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com