Brandy (Aubrey Plaza) has just graduated from high school as the perfect valedictorian. She has overachieved just about everything up to this point except one thing – losing her virginity. Convinced that she needs to add sexual prowess to her resume before beginning college, Brandy creates a laundry list of sexual experiences she’s determined to have over the summer, one way or another.
Culled from her sister, (Rachel Bilson), her two besties (Alia Shawkat and Sarah Steele), and some issues of Cosmo, Brandy’s list includes a plethora of dirty acts, most of which she has no idea of their meaning – “Motorboating? My uncle Andy has a boat, that should be easy.” Why doesn’t she just look these things up on Urban Dictionary? Well, it doesn’t exist yet. Set in 1993, The To Do List is an homage to the teen sex comedies of the late 80’s and early 90’s.
The cast is rounded out by Scott Porter as Rusty Waters – the end goal on the list, Johnny Simmons as Cameron – who probably should be the end goal, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Andy Samberg and Donald Glover as some check marks, Connie Britton and Clark Gregg as Brandy’s incredibly awkward parents, and Bill Hader as the manager of Brandy’s summer pool job. You’d think there was room for only one coming of age tale involving a pool run by an SNL cast member, but you’d be wrong.
Surprisingly, my biggest problems with this film do not include the fact that teens are being played by mid to late twenty somethings. Plaza looks a bit old, but for the most part, the cast looks and acts young enough to be believable, at least as far as movie teens go. The biggest problem is that in being a period piece homage, The To Do List feels exactly like that, rather than it’s own movie. It’s full of “hey, look, it’s the 90’s, did you catch that blatant reference you’re supposed to find funny because you grew up in the 90’s” moments. Instead of being its own 90’s teen sex comedy, it just tries too hard for its own good. On top of that, the overall “moral of the story,” feels very modern and out of place in the twenty year old setting.
Plaza’s character, also, is too calculated. In playing naive and inexperienced, she drifts into cold, Vulcan-like territory, treating sex like a logic puzzle. I get that she’s supposed to be the academic who looks at everything that way, but it comes off as feeling forced and unrealistic, and not always funny. I can’t imagine anyone actually acting the way she does at pretty much any point in the movie.
Despite the fact that, unlike many of the films it’s emulating, there is no visible nudity here, this very much an R rated movie with nearly every conversation running the gamut of sexual topics. It manages to feel not overly raunchy most of the time, but is certainly not for children or the easily embarrassed. It does manage to be consistently funny enough to not be a let down and despite being bashed over the head with them a few times, the cultural references will surely get some laughs from anyone who grew up in the 90’s. Like most of the cast.
Mrs. Hamster Says:
“It wasn’t very original and the 90’s jokes were way too obvious. Still, I thought it was funny and it reminded me of For a Good Time Call.”
My Rating: Three out of Five Hats
The To Do List does 500 theaters, July 26