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THE TO DO LIST (review)

Review by Caitlyn Thompson
Produced by Jennifer Todd, Brian Robbins, 
Sharla Sumpter Bridgett, Mark Gordon, 
Tom Lassally, Greg Walter
Written and Directed by Maggie Carey
Starring Aubrey Plaza, Johnny Simmons, Bill Hader, 
Scott Porter, Alia Shawkat, Rachel Bilson, 
Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Andy Samberg, 
Connie Britton, Clark Gregg

CBS Films / Rated R

Number One: Wait for Netflix instant play when you’re hung over to see this movie.

The To Do List focuses on Brandi Klark, an uptight and overly-book smart valedictorian, and her mission to de-virginize herself in every way before college.

How else would such an organized young lady pursue these endeavors?  A colorful “To Do List”.

Now, I’m amused by vulgar comedies about the teenage journey of losing IT, or not losing IT, (American Pie, Easy A, Superbad), but this movie was too much.

And it isn’t really funny, or clever. I find these films are far more successful when there’s subtle cleverness that shows the audience someone had a point in writing the film. Characters are relatable and sympathetic; there is usually some growth in an individual, friendship, or even family.

Didn’t happen in To Do List.

There is zero beneath the surface.

Brandi is the self-centered star and she’s not nice or quirky. I like Aubrey Plaza but I’m a little tired of the same quick and dry delivery. She’s amusing on Parks and Recreation but too much of her gets boring.

In The To Do List she’s not only dry, she’s unlikable, and I never wanted to root for her.

In Easy A, when the main character, Olive, semi-transforms into a bitch, she’s hot shit. She’s funny, confident, just trying to play her part. Even when her actions hurt her friends, we still like her because we see that she reacts emotionally. She is aware that her decisions are impacting in negative ways and moves to change herself for the better, and fix the problems she has created. The supporting roles help shape her growth as well. There’s a well-rounded arc of that movie: nice girl, big change, enemies created, guilt sets in, fights, emotional turmoil, apologies, and goals are met.

In The To Do List, there’s no arc. No growth. Brandi Klark doesn’t change and when she becomes a bitch, I liked her even less because she is so blindly pompous. The conflicts she stirs with her best friends and long-time-puppy-eyed lab partner are never expounded upon or really resolved. Brandi’s actions are driven by pure selfishness and she never appears guilty.

No matter what happens, all minor characters remain static, mean, or forgettable. Sing Bette Midler and watch the nerdy guy bawl his eyes out. Problems solved? No. Too fake. Dislike.

The movie was a giant satirical mess of the 90s. And maybe that’s what it was going for — an over the top, silly, low-quality, elongated skit with BAD wigs. And again — it had to have been intentional. But even as a giant satire, it wasn’t charming at all.

The makeup, wardrobes, and lingo of 1993 are too obvious and phony as well. Scrunchies, trapper-keepers, Tracey Gold, no-doy. I got it — the movie was set in the ‘90s. But all I could think of was I Love the 90s! from VH-1.

Seemed like the writer of The To Do List sat around and picked things from that show, made a bunch of raunchy skits and slapped it together. The film didn’t feel natural or have a decent flow. Just scene after scene of awkward and/or gross moments.

But maybe that’s the point – pure raunch. But you have to have some sort of redeeming quality that isn’t Clark Gregg (who is awesome in everything he does).

Clearly the movie is supposed to be exaggerated and really silly. But so was Superbad.

I think Superbad worked because the actors could pass for teenagers. Johnny Simmons alone, with his Zack Morris mushroom haircut, was the only character in The To Do List who was remotely believable in his role.

Everyone else, Bill Hader, Rachel Bilson, Alia Shawkat, etc, are late twenties or mid-thirties. And it shows.

Even Andy Samberg who always charms my socks off…meh.

So it wasn’t for me but I did love the poster for this film – everyone is animated. And maybe I’ve been watching way too much Archer, but it got me thinking, “What if the entire movie had been animated?

Could the humor and ridiculousness have worked?

I think so…maybe.”

In real life, Nnooope.

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