The To Do List
MPAA Rating: R for pervasive strong crude and sexual content including graphic dialogue, drug and alcohol use, and language – all involving teens
Cast: Aubrey Plaza, Bill Hader, Rachel Bilson, Alia Shawkat, Connie Britton
Running Time: 104 Minutes
Release Date: July 26, 2013
The raunchy teen comedy is not a new phenomenon. The To Do List is the latest in a long standing tradition that includes such not so highly regarded films as Porkies, The American Pie series, and countless others. “The To Do List” is more of the same, but with a female twist. This twist could have made it just different enough from its thematic predecessors to succeed, however, despite the impressive collection of talent in the cast, the film was undone by inconsistent tone and too many cheap jokes.
Set in 1993, valedictorian Brandy Klark (Aubrey Plaza) wants to shed her uptight image and to that purpose compiles a list of all the adult type activities that she missed out in highschool. In order to complete the list she must solicit help from her friends. Hijinks ensue.
There are many ways to judge a comedy. The most simplistic way is by measure of sheer volume of laughs. By this measure, “The To Do List” did fairly well. I did laugh, but they were not joyous laughs induced by clever lines or nuanced performances. They were awkward and uncomfortable laughs where you can’t really believe what you are seeing and you kind of want it to stop. There was a lot here that was raunchy for the sake of being raunchy. There’s nothing particularly clever about a person eating poo (or is it a candy bar? Or is it poo?,….It was poo).
The other bullet in this movie’s holster is the trusty 1990s reference. A lot of the jokes were basically, “Ha! People used different slang words back then!” or, “Ha! Look at what people wore in 1993,” or “Hey! I remember that song.” I truthfully enjoyed the trip down memory lane, but there was nothing particularly insightful about the references. They just pointed out a lot of stuff that was considered cool in 1993.
I think the most disappointing aspect of this movie is the amount of talent that was on display. Aubrey Plaza is amazing in Parks and Recreation. Television as a medium has the luxury of slowly developing characters over time, but her character in that show plays very well to strengths as an actress. She is strong, smart, sarcastic, dark. She has a tough exterior, but secretly really cares about the people around her. She is able to make a flawed and often rude character very likable. Here, she is repressed, naive and extremely Type A. It is good to see her try something different, but she was not able to make me like her character.
There were a lot of other talented people here also: Donald Glover, Bill Hader, Andy Samberg and others were all trying very hard but were unable to lift this material to bring anything beyond a few cheap laughs.
At the end, the movie couldn’t quite commit to what it had set out to be. For the first 90 minutes this was an unapologetically raunchy film that never met a line it wouldn’t cross. Then at the end it turned sappy with a heavy-handed lesson that may have been sweet, but seemed woefully out of place.
“The To Do List”, gave ladies the teen raunchy comedy that I would guess most of them never wanted.
On a scale of 1-10 with 1 being the least, 5 being the best, and 10 being the worst again I give it a 2.25 with the emoticon based sub-ranking of: clutching pearls.