The To Do ListCultureCinemaMovie reviews
The catalogue of teen or “frat” American comedies set decades after their conception is a curious one. It started with the iconic American Graffiti, which was later followed by two equally well-received romps – Animal House and Dazed and Confused. The To Do List, however, drops the baton, and its inexplicable setting in 1993 will surely perplex viewers.
The plot follows prudish 18-year-old virgin Brandy (Aubrey Plaza) who, upon graduating from her Idaho high school, decides to undergo a sexual awakening in preparation for college. Transfixed by guitar-playing troubadour Rusty (Scott Porter) at a party, she decides that she wants to lose her virginity to him before the end of the summer.
Brandy’s friends and relatives are understandably amazed by the transformation of the bookish schoolgirl into an uninhibited young woman. Hilarity ensues as Brandy conceives the eponymous to do list: a list of sexual acts she must perform before the summer ends. She uses her friend and lab partner Cameron (Johnny Simmons) as a tool to perform a variety of these acts upon while waiting for heartthrob Rusty to be the one who takes her virginity.
This being a typical teen comedy, gross-out embellishments are woven into the plot with jokes about excrement tasting, back passages and buckets of vomit all playing their part at some point. When the film seems to be at its most puerile, it finds a way to debase itself further as it lollops to its excruciating end.
Viscerally egregious and inherently misogynistic, The To Do List is an exercise in obnoxious filmmaking. Director Maggie Carey seems to think that switching gender stereotypes by making the boys sensitive and the girls licentious is enough to make the film work, but it simply isn’t. Furthermore, its setting in the early 90s seems like a cheap trick, an affectation or gimmick to claim some sort of cinematic kinship with other teen comedies set a decade or two earlier than the year they were made.
What was meant to be a quirky, post-feminist teen comedy has ended up as quite objectionable filmmaking. But fans of the genre will enjoy the jokes and the gross-out comedy elements – these films are made for a certain demographic and while very offensive, there are laughs aplenty.
Guy de Vito
The To Do List is released nationwide on 4th October 2013.
Watch the trailer for The To Do List here: