The To Do List

This coming of age sex comedy sticks loyally to formula, yet feels completely fresh because of one key ingredient: The main character is a girl.

Genre(s): Comedy

Director: Maggie Carey

Actors: Aubrey Plaza, Johnny Simmons, Bill Hader, Scott Porter, Alia Shawkat, Rachel Bilson, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Andy Samberg, Connie Britton, Clark Gregg

Year: 2013

MPAA Rating: R

Country: USA

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Brandy Klark (Aubrey Plaza), high school class valedictorian, is an uptight nerd, as are most smarty-pants in the movies. Always organized, she has a checklist of things to accomplish before moving to the dorms to start college… you know, like label her underwear, contact her roommate, etc. But before you can say booze-soaked graduation party, her BFFs point out that there are other pressing matters. She can’t enter the world of rampant college-aged penises (penii?) without getting some sexual experience under her belt. Don’t want to be THAT virginal dweeb in the dorm!

Hence the checklist of raunch, which includes an exhausting assortment of jobs (hand job! blow job! rim job!), many of which can’t be found in the Encyclopedia Britannica (hello, 1993!). Brandy treats this “to do list” matter-of-factly, like a homework assignment, which of course lends to hilarity. Refreshingly there are no moral or angstful quandries that hold her up, other than the fact that the older guy that she is most hot and bothered by at the pool, Rusty Waters (Scott Porter), thinks she’s a freak. Which, well, she is.

The supporting cast is having a grand time, from Andy Samberg as a grunge-era rock god, biding his time in Boise clubs, to Bill Hader as a washout pool manager (who can’t swim!), to Connie Britton as Brandy’s knowing mother, who is only too ready to give her daughter frank sexual advice, much to the horror of Brandy’s judge dad (Clark Gregg). Set in 1993, credit goes to the production designers that have the look of the film spot-on. Brandy’s high-waisted shorts and owly glasses made me howl in familiarity. Plus the plot of sexual discovery works because of the crucial detail that without the internet, Brandy’s home research only goes so far.

The To Do List is what Sixteen Candles would have been if it was a modern sex comedy. Sticking to the teen movie formula, it’s replete with lovelorn boys, bitchy older sisters, loyal BFFs, dorky adults, and teens played by actors in their late 20s and 30s. There is plenty of raunch, but to the film’s credit, most of the graphic stuff is slightly off camera, letting the snort-worthy language fill in the blanks. Because, really, without the language and sex, this is just a big ol’ squishy and sweet John Hughes teen comedy.

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