“The To Do List” is an occasionally funny film but, when it’s not that funny, it’s intensely boring. And that’s too often for it to tell a compelling story. The premise is reminiscent of “American Pie” with one central female, and taken to more extreme lengths. No one screws a pie, but a character does something much more disgusting – she takes a bite out of what looks like a Snickers bar floating in the local pool, taking it as a new employee hazing… Well, you can figure out how that ends… That’s also another way to show that the girls can get just as raunchy as guys in comedies.
The story follows Brandy Klark (Aubrey Plaza) who, in the opening scenes, gets ridiculed during her valedictorian speech for being a virgin. She is too embarrassed to even make much of a speech, or impression. Her friends Fiona (Alia Shawkat) and Wendy (Sarah Steele), who are nicknamed the slutty Oompa Loompa’s by Brandy’s father (Clark Gregg), take the virgin to a kegger celebrating their graduation. When the local dream boat Rusty Waters (Scott Potter) mistakenly sticks his tongue down her throat in a very awkward encounter, she doesn’t know what to do. Taking this as a sign that she is sexually inexperienced to say the least, she puts together a to-do list of all the sex acts her sister (Rachel Bilson) can tell her about, all of which she will do before going to college, finishing with the endgame of going all the way with the guy who started it all: Rusty Waters.
We should be thankful for little favours. If the setting were actually 2013 instead of 1993, this would be a four-hour movie if she were to list all the sexual acts from UrbanDictionary.com. Her raunchy to-do list has everything from giving oral, cunnilingus, going all the way, motor-boating… The only thing not on the list is anal sex, because god forbid anyone takes the backdoor – said by Gregg in the amusing trailer. It seems he has a lot of the best lines – as well as Brandy’s slacker boss, portrayed by Bill Hader. As far as films where the main protagonist works at a public pool for the summer, who else would take “The Way, Way Back” any day over this?
It’s just that the cast isn’t utilized very well in a film purely concerned with sex, but at least you know what you’re going into before you see this. When films have such sexual subject matter, they should at least be funny. Right? I think they should at least have some nudity, too (for a film rated 18A that expectation is not unreasonable) but apparently Maggie Carey doesn’t think so. The reason the cast gets under utilized is because the material really isn’t that funny, and these cast members are funny people delivering crappy dialogue. Bill Hader is probably the funniest character, and Clark Gregg is funny, too, when he shows up. Donald Glover gets a few laughs, too. There aren’t many good characters to root for, however. Aubrey Plaza’s talent derives mostly on sarcastic witticism; but the character just comes off as bitchy and unlikeable. Admittedly, Plaza gets a few laughs in the beginning, but not much else. She is miscast because there’s hardly anything witty about the character she’s playing. She’s just throwing around her kitty to anything that moves.
When things go wrong for our “hero,” she sports a Why does everyone hate me? attitude. She’s inadvertently hurting people for the sole reason of gaining sexual experience, and it’s just not that entertaining. The only decent chemistry there is shared between Plaza and her two besties. The only time they don’t talk about sex is when they’re talking about watching “Beaches” before the summer expires (so it just passes the Bechdel test). I think this film is supposed to show that women like casual sex, too; and that sex isn’t everything. Plaza doesn’t have good chemistry with anyone else because her character is just so bossy and unlikable, really. If she has to go out for another leading role, she should pick her characters better. The plot is utterly predictable, and it is partly inspired by events from Carey’s life – so it expresses that life can be pretty predictable, too; as well as mostly unfunny romantic comedies like this one.