Kind of like a girl version of SUPERBAD…….but not really. Huh. It’s kind of funny. Why do we always try to compare movies with other movies? It’s a natural instinct. Maybe it’s because we don’t know how to take something that’s actually original, or maybe because the movie in question isn’t original. Sorry to ramble on here, but I never really thought of it until now. Weird. I guess other comparisons could be made to DAZED AND CONFUSED (because of the period piece theme) or even WET HOT AMERICAN SUMMER (which I still haven’t seen….sorry).
Anyway, back to the movie. THE TO-DO LIST takes place in the summer of 1993. 18-year-old Brandy Klark (Aubrey Plaza) has just graduated from High School (though she’s 29 in real life). She is going to college in the fall, but…. OH NO…… she’s never had sex. And not just sex, she’s never even really kissed a boy. So, for a reason that can only be described as contrived, she makes a to-do list of all the sexual things she needs to do. Things like, handjob, blowjob, rimjob, getting finger-banged, and finally… having sex. In particular, her goal is to have sex with this unappealing college dude who is wearing a really bad wig and sings “Pour Some Sugar on Me” By Def Leppard on his acoustic guitar at High School parties. Brandy also is working at a local pool as a lifeguard for the summer, with her science partner Cameron (who has a crush on her), and a burnout boss who slams beers all day and can’t swim at all. Brandy also gets advice from her two friends Fiona and the BEACHES (yes, the Bette Midler movie) loving Wendy. Oh yeah, Brandy’s family is kind of fucked up too. There’s her slutty sister (Rachel Bilson), her lube lending mother, and her over protective father (Clark Gregg).
That’s an awful lot of characters isn’t it? For me, it was too much. They tried to cram a lot of things in this movie, and non of it subtlety. All of this has the tone of a wacky sitcom. The acting is very broad, kind of like THAT 70’S SHOW. I guess that’s fine for television, but when I go to the movie theater, I want something a bit more than Ashton Kutcher-like characters. Nothing anyone said or did felt genuine. It all felt like a bunch of “Funny or Die” sketches slapped together to make a feature film. Maybe the movie would have worked if it had a central character that you really cared about that tied the film together, but Brandy Klark is a stuck-up, snobby, selfish nerd that doesn’t really stop to think about anyone else (unless you count the ending, which has her changing her bitchy ways out of nowhere).
Another thing that really bugged me about this movie was that it takes place in 1993. Now, the time period itself doesn’t pose a problem for me, it’s the way it’s handled. 1993 is treated like a one-dimensional gimmick. The clothes and hairstyles are very obvious (and if you ask me, very late 80’s-ish). This is when grunge was really taken effect, but here people are still talking about Marky Mark. Writer/director Maggie Carey loads the film with so many references from the early 90’s, that it felt like she was trying to hard. Like she was saying, “No one is going to believe it’s 1993 unless I have people mention GROWING PAINS 86 times. Maybe I’ll throw up some 90210 posters up for good measure”. Maggie! It’s too much. As these references appeared, I couldn’t help imagining Maggie congratulating herself for being “so clever”. It was distracting and annoying. It’s okay to nostalgically chuckle at things from the past, but I don’t think a time period should ever be a punchline like it is here.
Like I said, the acting is of the sitcom variety. Aubrey Plaza….. …. I just don’t get it. She really likes playing these snotty outcast characters who always have something witty to say. She’s fine, if you like her I guess. Some of the supporting cast is amusing. Johnny Simmons as Cameron is likable enough. Bill Hader has some funny moments as well. Loved his reaction when Plaza checks out a piece of poop in the pool (ala CADDYSHACK). Oh yeah…. if you ever wanted to see Bill Hader have sex with Rachel Bilson……well…….Ta Dah! Clark Gregg is amusing as Brandy’s father. And I just have to say it. I have a huge crush on Alia Shawkat. She has lots of charisma (not to mention that she’s just adorable). Unfortunately, when it comes to feature films, she seems to be stuck playing the best friend. She’s so much better than that. In fact, I think she should have played Brandy. That would have been inspired casting… instead of type casting. But then there’s some casting that is just not good. Andy Sandberg shows up as a grunge rocker, but it’s so half-baked. I also could have done without seeing Christopher Mintz-Plasse playing the awkward character he always plays in every movie. The worst person in this is Scott Porter as Rusty Waters, the douchebag Brandy is trying to sleep with. He’s so broad, over-the-top and unfunny that he might as well have been played by Ashton Kutcher.
This is Maggie Carey’s debut film. I appreciate her doing a raunchy comedy for females. It’s nice to see that. Unfortunately, it’s just not very good. All of the humor is very obvious and the performances are straight out of a sitcom. I did laugh once in a while, but definitely not enough times to get even close to recommending it. When I first wrote the headline for this review, I accidentally wrote, THE DO-DO LIST. I have never been so right. ★½ (out of ★★★★)
– Rated R for pervasive strong crude and sexual content including graphic dialogue, drug and alcohol use, and language – all involving teens.
– Running time: 1hr 43min.