Title: The To-Do List
Director: Maggie Carey
Starring: Aubrey Plaza, Johnny Simmons, Bill Hader
Release Date: 4th of October
Horror films are curiously enjoyable. We know that watching a mysterious psychopath butcher a herd of skittish teenagers would be horrifying in real life, but on screen its seems to provide an irresistible and sadistic pleasure.
We love to squirm as the horror unfolds in front of us. Unfortunately, The To-Do List is not a horror movie. It’s a comedy.
This is unfortunate, because The To-Do List works better when it’s making us squirm. The film follows awkward over-achiever Brandy Clarke (Aubrey Plaza) and her attempts to gain sexual experience in preparation for university.
To prepare herself, Brandy decides to create a list of sexual acts to perform in advance of her freshman year, with the ultimate goal of having sex with heartthrob Rusty Waters (Scott Porter). Clarke’s list is disturbingly comprehensive, including every type of “job” you could possibly imagine.
Once Clarke has written up her list and the premise has been set, the movie descends into an explicit pandemonium of sex. This is the point at which The To-Do List excels.
Clarke’s sexual pursuits gradually become more and more unsettling, provoking disgust and delight in equal measure. Plaza brings deadpan delivery to her role, causing further discomfort to the viewer as she performs carnal acts while showing about as much emotion as a wooden doorknob.
She comes across as cool, calculated and sometimes confused during the more sexual scenes, accurately portraying the curious teenager. The film’s more intimate moments are embarrassing and disgusting, but that’s what makes them so thoroughly enjoyable.
Regrettably, the film is not funny enough to provide entertainment outside of these scenes. Clarke’s sexual exploits serve as the films only comedic set pieces, while the rest of the film relies on flat one-liners.
Clarke and her friends fail to furnish any original or memorable lines, instead resorting to crude and off-colour conversations that reek of desperation. The male cast fare better, but the script doesn’t give them the ammunition to leave a lasting impression. Comedic veterans Christopher Mintz-Plasse (Superbad) and Andy Samberg (Hot Rod) go to waste.
Bill Hader is given a substantial role as a pool lifeguard named Willy, but the best line he can muster pathetically refers to an “Itty Bitty Titty Brigade”.
The To Do-List commits a mortal sin through its sheer mediocrity. You can’t laugh with it and you can’t laugh at it. As a comedy, The To-Do List is forgettable.
Its real strength comes from its shocking depiction of sex. The adult scenes are shameless and truthful, faithfully capturing awkward adolescent relations. These sequences will make you pleasantly uncomfortable, so bring a group of friends and collectively reel in disgust.
In a Nutshell: A desperately crass comedy that favours sexual shock tactics over clever antics, with mixed success.