×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘The To Do List’

This maximum-raunch sex comedy stays buoyant and likable throughout thanks to the winning presence of Aubrey Plaza in the lead.

With:
Aubrey Plaza, Johnny Simmons, Bill Hader, Alia Shawkat, Sarah Steele, Scott Porter, Rachel Bilson, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Andy Samberg, Donald Glover, Adam Pally, D.C. Pierson, Dominic Dierkes, Connie Britton, Clark Gregg.

The “R” rating stands for maximum raunch in the case of “The To Do List,” an exuberantly vulgar tale of a high-school valedictorian’s efforts to earn a 1600 on the SATs of intercourse. Featuring a few gags that might make even Judd Apatow blush, this rare femme-centric addition to the loss-of-virginity canon (dominated by the likes of “Porky’s,” “Risky Business” and “American Pie”) hits its fair share of outrageously funny highs amid lots of so-so filler, but stays buoyant and likable throughout thanks to the winning presence of “Parks and Recreation” star Aubrey Plaza in the lead. Arriving at the height of palpable blockbuster fatigue, tyro scribe-helmer Maggie Carey’s low-budget laffer should earn passing marks from auds and score solid sleeper biz for CBS Films.

SEE ALSO: Director Maggie Carey Goes Home in Aubrey Plaza Comedy

Set in the heavily nostalgized, pre-Internet year of 1993 — which, among other cultural signposts, allows for a soundtrack that might be dubbed “Best of Parental Advisory Explicit Lyrics” — the pic springs into motion with studious good girl Brandy (Plaza) discovering that, while she’s been burying herself in schoolwork, most of her classmates have been busy studying how to zooma-zoom-zoom in the proverbial boom-boom. So with the same overachieving resolve she brings to her AP chemistry labs, plus some handy pointers from BFFs Fiona (Alia Shawkat) and Wendy (Sarah Steele), she sets out on a crash course in masturbation, dry humping and oral pleasure, en route to the much-coveted cherry pop. (Pic’s title refers to the carefully indexed checklist Brandy keeps tucked away in — where else? — her Trapper Keeper.)

Further helping to set the stage for this Olympiad of heavy petting is Brandy’s summer job as lifeguard at a community pool (managed by burnout Bill Hader, Carey’s real-life husband), which puts her in flirtatious proximity to dorky, smitten nice guy Cameron (Johnny Simmons) and a buff, bronzed, guitar-strumming dude named Rusty Waters (played with maximum self-mocking vanity by the deft Scott Porter). Both become somewhat unwitting human check marks on Brandy’s list — a sly reversal of the usual gender roles in movies like this, or for that matter Hollywood movies in general.

Indeed, while “The To Do List” isn’t the first movie about a teen girl determined to become a woman, most of the prior examples that spring to mind (Bernardo Bertolucci’s “Stealing Beauty” and the 1980 French hit “La Boum” among them) were more serious in tone and (unsurprisingly) made by European directors. Carey, a veteran of sitcoms and sketch comedy, brings a refreshing laissez-faire attitude toward her ostensibly taboo subject matter, which in turn manages something very few teen sex comedies of any stripe have done: It demystifies the sex act to the point that Brandy’s goal seems ever less momentous the closer she gets to fulfilling it. Or, to quote the movie’s own rather enlightened conclusion, “Sex is a big deal but not always a big deal.”

All of which makes “The To Do List” just promising enough for you to wish it were even better. Though Carey tries to invest the outre merriment with some legitimate emotional stakes, the movie never really connects on that level in the way of the similar-themed “Superbad” and “The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” or the best Farrelly brothers romps, because none of the secondary characters have been endowed with distinctive personalities of their own. So whether it’s Cameron’s wounded pride when he feels he’s been used, or Brandy’s ill-judged hook-up with the apple of Wendy’s eye (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), betrayal here never seems more than skin-deep.

Nothing, though, can diminish Plaza’s ebullient, game-faced turn. Looking like the girl most likely to become a kinky school librarian, she hurls herself through the movie’s gauntlet of humiliating physical comedy with stumblebum aplomb, whether trying to save face after an awkward bathing-suit malfunction or (in the pic’s gross-out piece de resistance) sporting a quite literal shit-eating grin. Connie Britton and Clark Gregg also share a few choice moments as Brandy’s parents, the former sympathetic to her daughter’s growing pains, the later naively clinging to the idea that his own wife was still a virgin on their wedding night.

On a technical level, the pic is as crudely made as some of its jokes, perhaps unintentionally calling to mind another early ’90s pop-culture reference: ABC’s hit Friday night lineup of family sitcoms.

Film Review: 'The To Do List'

Reviewed at Regal E-Walk, New York, July 11, 2013. MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 103 MIN.

Production: A CBS Films release and presentation of a Varsity Pictures/Mark Gordon Co. production. Produced by Jennifer Todd, Brian Robbins, Sharla Sumpter Bridgett. Executive producers, Mark Gordon, Maggie Carey, Bill Hader, Tracy McGrath, Greg Walter, Tom Lassally. 

Crew: Directed, written by Maggie Carey. Camera (color), Doug Emmett; editor, Paul Frank; music, Raney Shockne; music supervisor, Howard Par; production designer, Ryan Berg; art director, Eric Berg; set decorator, Cassandra Fuote; costume designer, Tracye Gigi Field; sound (Datasat/Dolby), Dennis Grzesik; supervising sound editor, Lewis Goldstein; re-recording mixer, Tom Ryan; associate producer, Jason Carden; stunt coordinator, Ross Clay; assistant director, Tara L. Craig; casting, Sheryl Levine.

With: Aubrey Plaza, Johnny Simmons, Bill Hader, Alia Shawkat, Sarah Steele, Scott Porter, Rachel Bilson, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Andy Samberg, Donald Glover, Adam Pally, D.C. Pierson, Dominic Dierkes, Connie Britton, Clark Gregg.

More Film

  • Radiohead - Thom YorkeRadiohead in concert

    Radiohead’s Thom Yorke to Release Solo Album Accompanied by Paul Thomas Anderson Film

    Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke’s new solo studio album, “Anima,” will be released digitally on June 27 on XL Recordings, he announced today. The album’s digital release will be accompanied by a “one-reeler,” also entitled “Anima,” directed by Paul Thomas Anderson (“Boogie Nights,” “Magnolia,” “There Will Be Blood”) and set to three tracks from the new [...]

  • HKIFFS and Heaven Pictures

    Hong Kong Festival, China's Heaven Pictures Launch 'Back to Basics' Film Project Support

    The Hong Kong International Film Festival Society (HKIFFS) and China’s Heaven Pictures announced that they will award six Asian filmmakers RMB1 million ($145,000) in a joint project to demonstrate how high-quality films can still be made inexpensively. The six films that emerge from the new initiative, titled “Back to Basics (B2B): A Love Supreme,” will [...]

  • Nuri Bilge Ceylan in conversation at

    Shanghai: How Nuri Bilge Ceylan Sees the World so Differently

    At a masterclass on Thursday, Turkish film director Nuri Bilge Ceylan gave the initial impression of being an austere and unwilling participant. Wearing heavy glasses, keeping his coat on, and responding to questions rather than offering a class, his manner suggested that he was difficult. In China as the head of the Shanghai International Film [...]

  • SpiderMan Far From Home

    Hollywood Takes on Italy's Vacation-Heavy Summer Season With Blockbusters

    With upcoming movies such as “Toy Story 4,” “Men in Black: International” and “Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw,” Hollywood studios are finally taking the plunge this year and slotting their blockbusters in Italian cinemas during the summer, a time when residents traditionally hit the beach en masse. For decades, the studios withheld their [...]

  • Easy Money

    Netflix Orders 'Snabba Cash' Series Based on Hit Movie Franchise from SF Studios

    Netflix has ordered a six-part original series based on the hit Swedish crime franchise “Snabba Cash” from SF Studios. Based on Jens Lapidus’s bestselling novels, the series is set in Stockholm’s gritty criminal underground ten years after the events depicted in the “Snabba Cash” (“Easy Money,” pictured) movie trilogy. The society has become even more [...]

  • The Kings Man

    Film News Roundup: Disney Sets 'The King's Man' Spy Comedy for February

    In today’s film news roundup, “The King’s Man” and “A Kid From Coney Island” get release dates, and “Barry” star Anthony Carrigan joins “Bill & Ted Face the Music.” RELEASE DATE Disney has set its Fox spy comedy prequel “The King’s Man” for release on Feb. 14, 2020. Disney made the announcement Wednesday at its [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content