Starring: Aubrey Plaza, Johnny Simmons, Bill Hader
Directed by: Maggie Carey (debut)
Written by: Maggie Carey (debut)
In “The To-Do List,” Brandy (Aubrey Plaza, TV’s “Parks and Recreation,” “Safety Not Guaranteed”) is a high school valedictorian who is sexually repressed. In order to become more experienced for college, Brandy makes a list of sexual acts she must perform before she is finally ready to have sex. As she gets started, she finds herself in over her head as she does her best to keep up with the more sexually-skilled guys and girls around her.
Plaza, who is known for her extremely dry sense of humor, gets the chance to be a little more broad and physical with her comedy in this film. While her performance is good enough and shows her ability to carry a movie (she did it last year in “Safety Not Guaranteed”), it is the supporting cast that provides the most laughs and memorable moments in “The To-Do List.” Actors like Bill Hader, Clark Gregg and Donald Glover in particular make the most of their screen time with solid comedic timing.
First time screenwriter Maggie Carey sets her film in 1993, but sadly brings nothing to the table by doing so. Besides serving as a backbone for a nostalgic soundtrack and offering a few 90s references and some out-of-style hair and clothing choices, it’s a wasted opportunity. Carey’s script is in many ways the most problematic feature of the film. A lot of the laughs come from the sheer shock of hearing a buttoned up goody-goody talk about – and ultimately performing – various sex acts. Carey flexes her sexual vocabulary muscles quite well by using terms that will have audiences jump online to check UrbanDictionary.com. More uninhibited (and freaky-deaky) moviegoers, however, might already know what “bumping donuts” means.
Still, many of the jokes fall flat. For example, when a clueless Plaza is introduced to the term “motorboating,” she states that it should be easy because she knows someone with a boat. Easy and unfunny jokes like that, mixed in with stale gross-out humor, tend to drag the film down. While the film’s glorification of female promiscuity and mixed moral messages may be off putting to some, it’s hard to imagine “The To-Do List” (originally titled “The Hand Job”) not finding fans of the new wave of female-driven raunchy comedy spearheaded by the success of “Bridesmaids.” Unfortunately, despite Carey’s efforts and solid cast, the humor is too inconsistent to truly hit the sweet spot (if you know what we mean).