This is a far from perfect film that plays on the score of SAT tests and carrying out the best score possible to steal the test answers. It uses a social idea of marking, class systems and unfair gradings of future lives for students based on one single test but doesn’t go anywhere deep or interesting with this notion and instead jumps on tired stereotypes of the main characters in the group and holds no real punch of comedy or suspense.
The plot is narrated by an at first unknown voice telling the audience who a few core students are and what their scores and stats are like. The leader, Kyle (Chris Evans) wishes to be an architect but a low SAT result could mean this dream never transpires. A moment of realisation with his friend Matty (Bryan Greenberg) that a fellow student’s father owns the place where the SATs are located makes them plan a break in scheme to get the answers and use them to ace their upcoming tests. The assistance of Francesca (Scarlett Johansson) can get them in but a few more hands may be needed for this idea to work.
It’s a very high school feeling movie with quick cuts and pacy camerawork at times which come from the influence of MTV Films producing this movie. Though their backing brings down the film as it’s too amateur like and detracts from any seriousness this subject matter could have possessed. It does feel like at times you’re watching a music video or flashes of fast silly ideas to try and liven up a mostly limp affair. The cliched attachments of high school students are here in spades and there are no real attempts to avert them or play something clever about twisting on the usual expectations of the nerdy girl or stoner. There is typical and frankly annoying racial stereotypes of an Asian being smart at maths, the black guy achieving at basketball with his no nonsense mother wanting him to go another way, there’s the preppy blonde girl who is almost the smartest in the school but obviously she has to become hot by the end….right? Of course. The forbidden fruit dark mysterious sexy figure of the rich daddy’s girl who brings along a message that looking like a slut is cool apparently. It’s a very sad state that every character doesn’t really have their own identity apart from the cookie cut moulding people expect. It’s even more odd that the beginning narration comments on how tests look at students as what they are and not what they’ll become yet by the end they’re still the same in most aspects apart from now they’re on a bigger scale thanks to knowing the answers. That’s not a spoiler by the way, it’s predictable that they’d get the tests.
There are some good points to share though, it’s not a complete downer of a film and it is watchable. The MTV influence of pacy style helps one sequence in particular where they discuss the heist and some of the characters get breakaway moments where they envision themselves as elevated versions of themselves, for example we see Johansson as Francesca as an early leather clad Black Widow or just a sassy kick ass female taking down guards but the parallel can definitely be made now. There is too a piece of dialogue said by the blonde not quite valedictorian Anna (Erika Christensen) that feels almost touching and dramatic for this light flimsy film. It comes back full circle by the end of the movie and we see a new outcome to her musing on the subject of a train traveller in the midnight hour. They are about the only few things I can grab at for high positives though.
The acting is mediocre and even Evans and Johansson don’t show the spark that they have nowadays. Evans isn’t overly convincing as a leader but can play the handsome thinker well and Johansson brings that sexy edge her character asks for, it’s just a shame that her character only seems to have that as her main quality. The annoying narration makes for listening to the film a slight chore and in general there’s more annoyance to be had by the stoner character of Roy who the film must believe is funny but on the opposite he is just downright irritating.
Then the heist itself isn’t even tense or wholly thrilling, the predictability of romance and SAT stealing outcomes doesn’t make the film lift off with any curveballs, it’s all very straight dull high school material. I honestly thing worse than this is the fact than you can tell they’re trying to do some modern take on ‘The Breakfast Club’ with this film and that’s just a damn silly thing to take on. Heck it even mentions the 1985 classic in the dialogue but that is pretty much the only concrete pairing they share. It just isn’t funny or interesting which is a shame because I think there could have been potential within this idea to make something comic and something hitting on the fears of life after school.
A film that is highly forgettable, dumb and never hits the bullseye of any theme or idea it tries to execute.