The Perfect Score (2/10)
2004 by Tony Medley
When I was in high
school there were two films aimed directly at the high school audience
and both were seminal. The first was Blackboard Jungle, a story
of teenage rebellion, which introduced the world to Rock and Roll with
the song Rock Around the Clock. Although Blackboard Jungle wasn’t
released until March of 1955, Rock’ had been recorded in April
of 1954 and was released as the B-side of something called Thirteen
Women. The record sold around 75,000 copies and was dying, if not
dead, when Director Richard Brooks was looking for a theme song for Blackboard
Jungle, heard the recording owned by Peter Ford, the son of lead
actor Glenn Ford, and took it for the film. It was a marriage made in
heaven. Using Rock Around the Clock as the theme under the
opening titles, the film was a smash hit and it made the song so popular
that within a month after the movie’s release it was number 1.
I saw the second
film on the night it opened at the old Baldwin Theater in Los Angeles
(now a Magic Johnson Theater). It was another story of teenage angst and
it starred Natalie Wood, James Dean, and Jim Backus. I remember leaving
the theater after seeing Rebel Without a Cause, my friend and I
agreeing that we’d never seen a 16 year old who looked anything like
Natalie Wood. As if she weren’t enough, Rebel’ became
the theme for teenagers of the ‘50s going through their ritual of
maturation, and Dean became their standard bearer, even though he was
dead by the time Rebel’ was released.
Both of these films
were thought provoking, well written and well acted.
Now Paramount and
MTV Films have released their version of teenage angst for 21st
Century high schoolers, The Perfect Score. If this is any
example, rather than progressing, we’ve regressed substantially over
the past 50 years.
This is the
pathetically insubstantial story of six high schoolers who are panicked
about taking the SAT, the college entrance exam. So panicked that they
try to steal the test so they’ll know the answers, leading into a
far-fetched Watergate-type break-in by the ensemble cast
The film might be
worth seeing for the appalling performance by Leonardo Nam (Roy). I have
to think it’s a result of misguided direction (Brian Robbins). I
can’t imagine any actor intentionally putting forth such a revolting
Johansson (Francesca) must have seriously offended the makeup person
because her lips, thick to start with, look like an anaconda living on
her face. I thought she was exceptional in Lost in Translation and
Girl with a Pearl Earring, but wondered if she was
one-dimensional as she portrays the same characteristics in both films.
Answer: after sitting through The Perfect Score, based upon
available evidence, her second dimension has yet to be seen.
Her character is a
super smart girl who joins the group for no apparent reason. But,
then, that’s consistent with this entire film because there’s no
apparent reason for it to have been made. Better to rent Blackboard
Jungle or Rebel Without a Cause and see good writing, good
directing, and good acting. If this is an example of what appeals to
today’s high-schoolers, bring back the ‘50s.
January 26, 2004