The film focuses on a group of six high school students whose futures will be jeopardized if they fail the upcoming SAT exam. They conspire to break into the ETS building and steal the answers to the exam, so they can all get perfect scores. The film deals with the themes of one's future, morality, individuality, and feelings.
The film revolves around everyman high school student Kyle (Chris Evans), who needs a high score on the SAT to get into his preferred architecture program at Cornell University. He constantly compares himself to his older brother Larry, who is now living above his parents' garage. Kyle's best friend, Matty (Bryan Greenberg), wants to get a high score so he can go to the same college as his girlfriend, but he is an underachiever who had previously received a low score on his PSAT. They both believe that the SAT is standing in the way of their futures.
The two boys realize that fellow student Francesca Curtis' (Scarlett Johansson) father owns the building that houses the regional office of ETS, where the answers to the SAT are located. Francesca initially doesn't want to help but changes her mind, saying "What the hell? It sounds like fun." Meanwhile, Kyle becomes attracted to Anna Ross (Erika Christensen), the second-highest ranked student in the school, and tells her about the plan. Anna had bombed a previous SAT and needs a good score to get into Brown University. However, Matty doesn't like the fact that she now knows about the plan and has a rant, right in the presence of stoner Roy (Leonardo Nam), who then has to be included in the heist. And finally, Anna tells the school basketball star Desmond Rhodes (Darius Miles), who needs a score of 900 or better to join the basketball team at St. John's University.
An early attempt to break into the ETS offices fails, but the team then devises another plan. On the eve of the exam, Francesca will arrange for Kyle and Matty to have a meeting near the top floor, staying after closing. The other three will wait outside and watch the night guard until Francesca, Kyle, and Matty have successfully stolen the answers.
The first part of the plan goes well, with Francesca, Kyle, and Matty successfully avoiding security cameras and the night guard. However, the answers are located on a computer, and only the technical genius Roy can crack the password; he and the other two get into the building, and Roy correctly guesses the password after seeing a photograph of an employee. Still, the answers can't be printed, so the group decides to take the test with their combined knowledge and get the answers that way. In the early hours of morning, they are finished and have all the answers written down.
Just then, the guard comes up the stairs, and they try to escape through the ceiling; however, Francesca is left behind and is about to be discovered, so Matty bravely sacrifices himself in order to save her. Everyone else escapes, but each faces a certain confrontation before the exam: Kyle's brother asks him if he's really worse than a thief, Matty is bailed out by Francesca, Anna finds independence from her parents, and Desmond's mother convinces Roy to quit drugs.
Before the SAT testing begins, the group realizes that, although it will help get them what they want, they would be better off without cheating. Roy grabs the answers and distributes them in the bathroom. After the decision, Matty comments that "this whole thing was for nothing." Kyle replies, "I wouldn't say nothing," as he glances at Anna. Matty and Francesca also share a look, as they have also presumably started a relationship. Each person eventually gets their desired test score without the answers: Kyle's dream of becoming an architect is still alive by attending Syracuse University, Desmond ends up going to St. John's, Matty becomes an actor, Francesca writes a novel (which is about six kids who conspire to steal the answers to the SAT), and Anna decides to travel to Europe for a while before starting college. As for Roy – the narrator of the movie – he earned the highest SAT in the county, and, under Desmond's mom's guidance, he gets a GED. He then puts his untapped intelligence to use through programming, becoming a successful video game designer.Erika Christensen as Anna Ross
Chris Evans as Kyle
Bryan Greenberg as Matty Matthews
Scarlett Johansson as Francesca Curtis
Darius Miles as Desmond Rhodes
Leonardo Nam as Roy
Matthew Lillard as Larry
Fulvio Cecere as Francesca's Father
Vanessa Angel as Anita Donlee
Lorena Gale as Ms. Proctor
The film was panned by most critics, scoring a 17 percent "Rotten" rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Slant Magazine critic Keith Uhlich called it an "MTV film that extreme right-wing moralists can be proud of, as it posits a quintessentially American world of racial, intellectual, and sexual conformity." Many compared the film unfavorably with The Breakfast Club, and many even called it a rip-off. Entertainment Weekly wrote the film off as being "like The Breakfast Club recast as a video game for simpletons." Likewise, Roger Ebert awarded the film two stars out of four, calling the film "too palatable. It maintains a tone of light seriousness, and it depends on the caper for too much of its entertainment value." Ebert's review went on to point out that The Perfect Score was given a wide release, but that Better Luck Tomorrow, a teen drama film that received much more acclaim, was given a very limited release.
The film opened in 2,208 theaters and grossed $4.8 million, making for a $2,207 per-theater average. Placing fifth over the weekend, the film saw sharp declines in following weeks and ended its domestic run with $10.3 million.