BAM's Blog!

NewsOK | BLOGS

Movie review: "The To Do List"

by Brandy McDonnell Modified: July 26, 2013 at 9:36 am •  Published: July 26, 2013

A version of this story appears in Friday’s Weekend Life section of The Oklahoman. 2 of 4 stars

Movie review: “The To Do List”
A star vehicle for Aubrey Plaza (TV’s “Parks and Recreations,” “Safety Not Guaranteed”), who puts a slight twist on her usual deadpan schtick, the low-budget coming-of-age story is the rare teen sex comedy written from the female perspective, which makes its shortcomings all the more frustrating.

Much like its main character, the raunchy romp “The To Do List” tries too hard to find too much enjoyment for too long.

A star vehicle for Aubrey Plaza (TV’s “Parks and Recreations,” “Safety Not Guaranteed”), who puts a slight twist on her usual deadpan schtick, the low-budget coming-of-age story is the rare teen sex comedy written from the female perspective, which makes its shortcomings all the more frustrating.

Set in Boise, Idaho, in 1993, the movie chronicles the misadventures of overachieving, self-serious valedictorian Brandy Klark (Plaza), who has spent her high school years excelling as a mathlete, acing her advanced classes and earning a berth to Georgetown. Her gal pals Fiona (Alia Shawkat) and Wendy (Sarah Steele) are determined to show Brandy a good time before her senior year officially ends, so they haul her to a post-graduation kegger.

At the party, Brandy swoons over studly college guy Rusty Waters (Scott Porter) and sets a new summer goal: to lose her virginity to him before she goes off to college herself. Under the tutelage of her wannabe wild-child friends, Brandy resolutely tears her college prep checklist out of her Trapper Keeper and uses her well-honed study skills to create a new to-do list of sexual milestones she will conquer before moving on to actual intercourse.

In the pre-Google era, the strait-laced straight-A student must depend on trial and error, magazine articles and the sometimes dubious advice of her buddies, her trampy older sister Amber (Rachel Bilson) and her open-minded mother (Connie Britton), who is a nurse. Brandy’s uptight father (Clark Gregg), a judge, freaks out at the thought of his little girl becoming a woman.

Brandy approaches her new to-do list with the same focus she does her homework, and she’s not picky about who she gets to help her check off her goals, from smarmy schoolmate Duffy (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) to stoner singer Van (Andy Samberg). She even tries to seduce guys at the pool, where she works as a lifeguard alongside Rusty and her fawning best pal Cameron (Johnny Simmons) and is the favorite hazing target of her slacker supervisor, Willy (Bill Hader).

An alumna of New York’s acclaimed Upright Citizens Brigade improv troupe, writer-director Maggie Carey (Hader’s wife) loosely based the story on her own experiences, and she gets the period details spot-on, with jokes about complicated skorts and Ford Festiva automatic seatbelts landing perfectly.

But too many of the bawdy gags fall flat and feel contrived, and when one of your most memorable moments is an homage to “Caddyshack,” it’s just not a good sign. From the creative use of popcorn butter to the detailed penis diagrams, there’s a sense the first-time feature helmer is trying to one-up “American Pie” and its ilk, and the story’s focus is sometimes as addled as a hormonal teenager’s thought processes.

It deserves points for taking risks and making the effort to bring a new perspective to a familiar genre, but “The To Do List” ultimately fails to make the grade.

— BAM

   Please Login to your Facebook account to see comments
by Brandy McDonnell
Entertainment Reporter
Brandy McDonnell, also known by her initials BAM, writes stories and reviews on movies, music, the arts and other aspects of entertainment. She is NewsOK’s top blogger: Her 4-year-old entertainment news blog, BAM’s Blog, has notched more than 1...
+ show more


Trending Now


AROUND THE WEB

  1. 1
    Oklahoma Highway Patrol trooper accused of rape resigns
  2. 2
    Kevin Durant plans on playing for Team USA basketball in 2016
  3. 3
    The most popular NFL jersey in Oklahoma
  4. 4
    Report: Astros to hire former Oklahoma high school star A.J. Hinch as manager
  5. 5
    Ron Gardenhire fired as Twins manager
+ show more