Set in 1993, The To Do List carries on the raunchy tradition of American Pie with a little Easy A thrown in for good measure. Aubrey Plaza portrays Brandy Klark, the high school class valedictorian who decides to apply her obsessive tendencies for organization toward losing her virginity (and performing a variety of other sexual tasks in the process) during the summer before college. While the film relies mostly on vulgarity for laughs, the cast provides a few chuckles for those willing to wait for them.
Dreaming of a First-time Partner
Prodded by her two more adventurous friends (Alia Shawkat and Sarah Steele) and taunted by her sleazy older sister (Rachel Bilson), recent high school graduate and well-known virgin, Brandy, makes a list of sexual experiences she wants to tackle over the summer. Oblivious to her nerdy classmate’s (Johnny Simmons) crush, Brandy decides to begin her tentative sexual experiments with the local boys and consummate the plan with a hunky lifeguard who works with her. Rusty Waters (Scott Porter) represents the handsome, dangerous older guy who many girls would dream of as a first-time partner.
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Surrounded at the community pool where she works by the classmate, the hunk, and a slacker manager, Willy (Bill Hader), Brandy has the freedom to pursue her goals with various young men from her immediate environment (although that doesn’t stop her from also crossing an item off the list with an obnoxious older singer [Andy Samberg] she meets at a club). Her open-minded mother (Connie Britton) and clueless father (Clark Gregg) offer feeble attempts at parental concern and advice, but mostly appear for comedic effect.
Working on a Sexual Deadline
The To Do List resembles American Pie in its focus on high school students and an intent to lose their virginity by a certain deadline. Both movies use older actors to portray teenagers so the offensive language and situations are slightly more palatable. The To Do List , however, lacks the character development and originality of the earlier film, which focuses on a group of friends with the same sexual objective. Here, we only get to know Brandy, and it’s difficult to understand why the head of the class resorts to such degrading behavior. It’s also nearly inconceivable that a girl as well-read and intelligent as Brandy would have no knowledge of sexual terms or actions.
In the similarly themed Easy A , a high-achieving high school girl pretends to be a slut due to a misunderstanding and then intentionally as a sort of experiment. In the case of Easy A , however, the student actually learns something of value by the end of the movie. The ultimate intellectual payoff for Brandy losing her virginity is hardly earth-shattering insight (nor is it particularly rewarding for the audience, who must wait an hour and a half for a predictable ending that’s only mildly amusing). The 1990’s music, clothing, and pop culture references throughout the film have no particular relevance to the story, but make the wait a little more enjoyable.
Hader is especially good as the strange pool manager who balances his sadistic sense of humor with a kind heart, and his laziness with a loyalty to the workplace. Although we don’t get to learn much about Willy, these dualities make him more interesting than other characters, including Brandy, whose OCD-driven sex list becomes tiresome rather quickly.
The To Do List
- A brainy young woman wants to complete a list of sexual experiences before starting college in the fall.
- Starring Aubrey Plaza, Johnny Simmons, Bill Hader, Alia Shawkat, Sarah Steele, Scott Porter, Rachel Bilson, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Andy Samberg, Donald Glover
- Director-Writer: Maggie Carey
- Genre: Romantic Comedy
- Run Time; 104 minutes
- MPAA Rating: R (for pervasive strong crude and sexual content including graphic dialogue, drug, and alcohol use, and language – all involving teens).