The Perfect Score (2/10)

Copyright © 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 interpretation.

Poor Scarlett 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

The End