Dave’s Review: The To Do List

Letter Grade:

The Good:

Funny at times
Acting was alright
Some refreshing themes that you don't usually see in a dumb comedy

The Bad:

Just another cookie cutter raunchy teen comedy
Some very lame and obvious jokes
Casting nearly 30 year olds as High Schoolers

Cast & Crew:

Director: Maggie Carey
Writer: Maggie Carey
Stars: Aubrey Plaza, Johnny Simmons, Bill Hader, Donald Glover, Clark Gregg, Connie Britton, Rachel Bilson

Rated R for pervasive strong crude and sexual content including graphic dialogue, drug and alcohol use, and language - all involving teens

Set during the summer of 1993, The To Do List follows the post-graduation exploits of Senior Class Valedictorian and all around Goody Two-Shoes, Brandy Klark (Aubrey Plaza) as she attempts to loosen up and gain, what she sees as, much needed sexual experience before going off to College in the fall.

The tagline for this movie is “She’s going from straight A’s to her first F.” If, like me, you read that tagline and literally groaned out loud in disapproval you should probably just skip this movie. If you aren’t actively repulsed by what I consider to be a really (like really, really) dumb tagline, you may like this film.

I’ll be honest, I had a very hard time deciding on whether I should actually write a review for this film or not. I gave serious consideration to simply writing “It’s ok.” and leaving my review at that. I worry a lot about sounding too pretentious when I talk about movies. Not all movies have to be cinematic masterpieces…I get that…but this movie, at best, just wasn’t for me and at worst, was pretty bad. Was it an overall bad movie? No. In fact at points it was pretty funny. Was it a good movie? Oh, god no. The humor was raunchy, gross and worst of all predictable and kind of lazy at times. To me, it just seems like another in a long line of unimaginative teen comedies. All that being said, the audience of the screening I attended (that’s right I attended a “screening” not just a regular ol’ open-to-the-public “showing” of this movie…I don’t know how to put this but I’m kind of a big deal…) seemed to REALLY enjoy this movie…especially that one guy sitting behind me who repeated…out-loud…nearly every single one-liner joke throughout the entire 104 minute movie…like he had never seen a comedy film before…This guy SERIOUSLY LOVED this movie…uggghh…I hate people…I’m not sure whey I even go outside some days…anyhow that’s off topic…on to the review.

There wasn’t really anything wrong with the production of the film per se. It looked fine. Just nothing special. It did a decent job at creating a period piece set in the early 90’s, but the 90’s setting seemed to be almost exclusively there to set up far too many “Hey! Remember the 90’s?!!” jokes. Yes we get it. Stuff from the 90’s is funny. Zack Morris, Uncle Jessie, Hypercolor Shirts, Sega Genesis, VHS rental. Haha. Very funny. Some of the non-90’s related gags were funny (admittedly I did laugh out loud a few times) but most were more stupid and obvious than funny.

This feels nit-picky considering what type of movie this is, but I’m pretty tired of how unrealistically teenagers are portrayed in most movies. Teen comedies where adults (here, mostly in their mid to late 20’s) play High School kids always weird me out…especially when the movie is so sex-centric. It just seems kind of creepy and, at the risk of sounding prudish, applies a lot of over-the-top adult situations to the lives of children (or at best VERY young adults) that shouldn’t be in these same situations…but I’m probably being overly naive… I suppose some High School kids are in these situations in some cases. It just seems like too much. The characters have just graduated High School so I suppose you could probably assume that they are 18 and in fact “adults”…but …just ewww… That’s about the best I can do to articulate that argument. Just…ewww… There have been some really great movies this summer that have done an awesome job of having teenagers actually act like teenagers (Mud, The Way Way Back)…this was not one of them.

The acting was ok. I don’t recall being actively agitated by any of the acting in this movie…so there’s that. Honestly I won’t get too much into detail on the acting. The performances by Plaza (Parks and Recreation), Johnny Simmons (Perks of Being a Wallflower), Bill Hader (SNL), Alia Shawkat (Arrested Development), Sarah Steele (Spanglish), Donald Glover (Community), Rachel Bilson (The OC), Connie Britton (Friday Night Lights) and Clark Gregg (The Avengers and all those Marvel movies) were all ok and in a movie like this, if the acting isn’t cringe-inducing that’s pretty good.

It would seem this movie set out to be like other raunchy teen comedies (American Pie, Superbad, Porky’s etc.) only raunchier…and they succeeded. They did not at all shy away from gross-out humor in this film. This is not a movie for kids…like at all…If I had kids that were in their later High School years I would have to think twice about letting them see this movie…which of course means that it’s a movie that I would have loved when I was in High School. But I do want to be clear. This is very much rated R for a reason. There is teenage drinking, drug use, swearing, vandalism, a gag-inducing scatological joke (you know, cause they are SO edgy), LOTS of sexual innuendo, full on sexual acts (but surprisingly no nudity) and perhaps most damningly they watch the movie Beaches. (Is that the type of behavior we want Hollywood teaching our kids? An appreciation for Beaches?? Man, I really despise Bette Midler…) If any or all of this makes you uncomfortable, don’t see this movie.

Having written this review I’ve realized that it’s probably coming off as if there are no redeeming qualities to this film. That’s unfair. It wasn’t by any means a bad movie. There are certainly some refreshing themes of female empowerment that you don’t typically see in a dumb teen comedy. Plaza’s character is strong, smart, and independent and not the typical romantic comedy heroine that is dependent on a man for her self-worth which is a welcome change to the typical Hollywood archetype. If you measure this movie by the typical Hollywood comedy films of late, it’s not so bad. It’s absolutely better than anything Adam Sandler has done in the last decade.

In general this movie seems to be made specifically for High Schoolers and people that were in High School in the early to mid 90’s. I am neither of those things and as a result thought it was mostly not a great movie. But I’m probably being overly critical. So in short, I thought this movie was pretty dumb and not that great, but you may like it if it seems like your type of movie. That’s ok. Everyone can like what they want. I won’t judge you…to your face…maybe…

Dave Bernard (5 Posts)

More About Me