The To-Do List Review

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Aubrey Plaza stars in Maggie Carey‘s directorial debut The To-Do List, an R-rated raunchy comedy about a girl playing catchup on her sexual escapades before she hits the college scene. The To-Do List is very much a cheap raunchy comedy, like the surprise hit Sex Drive, but where that film surprises with charm and a constantly flowing sense of humor The To-Do List detours into complete gross-out humor that sometimes works, but mostly for the viewers’ simple amusement. It’s not a bad film, especially for a newcomer director, but it’s also not a good one because of its hit-or-miss comedic delivery and constant feeling of trying too hard to push a joke beyond its welcome.

Brandy Klark (Aubrey Plaza) is a complete square. She’s a straight-A student that is moving on up to the college life. She’s also a virgin that has absolutely no sexual experience whatsoever. Her two friends don’t mind, but they do remind her that she’s not getting any younger. See, Brandy has always been the responsible one and because of that she’s missed out on most that high school has to offer, which means she needs to play a little catchup before the summer ends and the new school year begins.

She takes advice from her best friends, her bitchy sister and her trusting, loving and sometimes downright bizarre parents. The result? A “to-do” list featuring various sexual acts that may or may not help her achieve a fully satisfying grand “finale” a.k.a. full-on sex with her summer crush Rusty before it’s too late.

The To-Do List is writer/director Maggie Carey‘s first full-length film and it shows. The film is primarily a comedy, while occasionally trying to act as a serious story of one’s own self-discovery of sex and the lack of importance it actually has on life compared to more important things, like establishing strong and healthy relationships with friends, family and cute members of the opposite sex. No really, The To-Do List really does try and cover the entire field, but the direction never really settles for one or the other.

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Carey’s film is loaded with comedic talent, ranging from quick roles by guys like Donald Glover, Bill Hader and Andy Samberg. The film stars Aubrey Plaza, who has been slowly rising among the ranks as one of the funniest female talents currently working in the business. Plaza attempt to carry the film almost works, but sadly her character’s overall appeal is limited to the lines she must speak, which aren’t always that funny.

Carey’s script is messy and rough, but still has occasional moments of brightness. Plaza and most of the cast help spice up some of the film’s drier spots, but Carey’s writing still pokes through as material that could have used another draft or two. The problem isn’t always with the actual jokes being said, but more so the way that they come out.

A lot of the material feels forced and pushy just for the sake of “going too far”. I wasn’t grossed out or offended by anything, yet at times I found myself completely bored with the film, because the jokes rarely dip below the surface. The film is definitely raunchy and occasionally clever, but most of the lines blur together and cause for repetition and lack of originality.

The performances range from kind of funny to downright stupid, with Aubrey Plaza anchoring down the centerpiece and Bill Hader backing her up when needed. The rest of the cast consists of glorified cameos that work in the film’s favor, but rarely to help serve the story. The actual story becomes an afterthought as Carey attempts to fill the film with as much sex and sex-related jokes as possible, without ever thinking of figuring out a way to tie it all into a satisfying story on a mental level.

The To-Do List is funny and would make for a fine rental, but nothing about the film pushes the characters off of the screen. They’re simple characters played by talented people and written by someone who shows skill in the field, but is still another one or two films away from finding that perfect balance of comedy and good character work.

It’s great seeing Aubrey Plaza branch out and take on new roles, but it’s also disappointing seeing her star in a film that’s just okay and not much of anything else. The To-Do List isn’t going to win audiences over as one of the funniest R-rated comedies of the year, because it’s just not consistently funny enough. There are long stretches of jokes that simply do not work, despite Plaza and the rest of the casts’ efforts. This hurts the film dearly and makes it something that passes the time, but nothing that you’ll ever want to watch again.

The To-Do List – 6.5/10

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