The To Do List is full of ’90s nostalgia, hilarious one-liners and a talented ensemble of comedic actors. Director and writer Maggie Carey’s film had a lot of promise with it being that rare teen sex comedy from a female perspective. It’s too bad that the film’s lead character is an idiotic good-girl-gone-wild with absolutely no redeemable qualities.
The American Pie films, The Girl Next Door and Easy A all fit into the teen comedy genre, with a side of raunchiness. In these films, the characters are silly, stupid and at times pretty selfish, but they are still likable enough to have the audience connect with them. We had fun and laughed at the guys in American Pie, and Easy A put Emma Stone at the top of the Hollywood A-list for her heartfelt portrayal of a girl desperate to fit in. The To Do List could have held its own in this category, but Carey’s screenplay has our heroine acting like a total dunce.
Set in 1993, Brandy Klark (Aubrey Plaza) has just graduated from high school at the top of her class. After she attends a graduation party and accidentally makes out with Rusty Waters (Scott Porter), she quickly decides she wants to shed her good girl image and creates a list of sexual “activities” she wants to accomplish before she heads to college. Her best friends Fiona (Alia Shawkat) and Wendy (Sarah Steele) encourage her and before we know it, Brandy is off scheming for guys she can experiment with.
I laughed some in The To Do List, but it was more out of the shock value versus actual comedy. There are some great and memorable supporting characters including Brandy’s burnout boss (Bill Hader), her older and more experienced sister (Rachel Bilson) and her lab partner who is secretly in love with her (Johnny Simmons). Unfortunately these actors can only lift the film so much.
Plaza does the best that she can in this over-the-top role, but the problem is in the screenplay. Her character makes catastrophic mistakes, but doesn’t have the decency to correct them. Even for a Hollywood comedy, its hard to believe a person who succeeded in school and has a promising future, would ruin her friendships and be completely blind to what she is doing to herself. When The To Do List could lean towards the awkwardness of teen angst, it settles for the raunchy gag instead.
The To Do List may satisfy a few Plaza fans, provide a few laughs and make you feel nostalgic of the ’90s, but in the end all you’ll remember is the irrelevant gross-out moments and cheesy dialogue.