Movie Review: “The To-Do List” – Check Off This Comedy

Written by Emily McWilliams October 12, 2013


To Do List

If you’re looking for a thought-provoking and beautiful film that speaks to you in the language of pure cinema, then you should probably stop reading this review because “The To-Do List” is not that movie by any means.  However, if you’re in the mood for something that’s funny in a crude and, at times, gross way then “The To-Do List” will probably fit the bill.  This coming-of-age comedy knows its audience and its limitations: part of the reason it works so well is that it doesn’t try too hard to achieve more than it knows it can.  The film takes every opportunity to make sexual innuendos (although, for the most part the film isn’t that subtle and is pretty graphic with it’s humour) and even though many of the jokes are just poorly written, it’s easy to go along with the film if you lower your expectations.  Written and directed by Maggie Carey and starring Aubrey Plaza, “The To-Do List” follows in the vein of “Superbad” to give audiences a much needed dose of awkward teen sexuality on the big screen.

One girl’s quest to lose it

Brandy Klark (Plaza) is your typical high school overachiever and Valedictorian of the class of 1993.  With only a few months left before she moves away to college, Brandy makes a sexual to-do list in an effort to lose her virginity to lifeguard hunk Rusty Waters by the end of the summer.  Brandy’s lab partner Cameron begins falling for her as she checks off items on her list, causing friction between the former friends.  As the summer progresses, Brandy learns about herself and her sexuality as she tries to figure out what the big deal is about losing her v-card.

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Who Doesn’t Love the 90s?

Besides the overtly sexual content of “The To-Do List” much of the humour stems from the film being set in the 90s.  The fashion, trends, and lifestyles that I’m sure we all remember fondly from that wonderful decade are imitated well and gave the film an extra edge in what is otherwise a fairly generic plot.   Add in the fact that most of the actors are nearly 30 and portraying high school students, there is a sense that everyone is playing dress-up and seeing how ridiculous they can make this film.  That’s why “The To-Do List” works: for the most part it avoids any sappy morals and just delivers what it promises – a good-old fashioned sex comedy.

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Time for Plaza to shake things up

Aubrey Plaza, I’ll be the first to say I like what you do and no one can come close to imitating your comedy, but I’m a little concerned that your act might need a revamp.  Once again in “The To-Do List”, Plaza plays the slightly detached, sarcastic girl with the well-timed one-liners.  It’s a great routine and has set her apart from other young actresses, but if she does one more role like this, I think an intervention will be necessary.  Plaza has a lot of potential as a comedic star, but a lot of comedy depends on the element of surprise, and I think “The To-Do List” will be her last film where she can keep this acting style working for her before it gets too predictable.

“The To-Do List” is far from high art but even through the immature jokes and awkward acting it still manages to make you laugh.  It’s really one of those movies that’s so bad it’s funny, and if you need something lighthearted and silly then this is the movie to watch.  So grab your trapper-keeper and some magic markers and cross “The To-Do List” off of your “must-see” list.

My Rating: 6.5/10

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