Movies: "The To Do List" | Arts & Culture

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Movies: "The To Do List"
Movies: "The To Do List"


What’s not to like about Aubrey Plaza?  Her deadpan role as April Ludgate on “Parks & Recreation” is second only to Nick Offerman’s meat chomping Ron Swanson among the supporting players of that great cast.  She was also good in last year’s quirky time-travel movie, “Safety Not Guaranteed.”


But unfortunately, she just doesn’t have the chops to carry this teen sex comedy to a higher level than most others.


Written and directed by Maggie Carey, who is married to former “SNL” player Bill Hader (and has directed several “Funny or Die” shorts), the twist to “The To Do List” is that it’s about a just-graduated high school girl desperately seeking to gain sexual experience before college -- instead of the usual pack of randy dudes.


Valedictorian Brandy Klark (Plaza) is nothing if not organized.  She writes out a list of ill-informed sexual practices (“I’ll have to ask the librarian about that one,” she mutters), each of which she will seek to perform with various guys, all leading up to the Big One.  


She’ll get advice along the way from her permissive mother (Connie Britton, who plays Rayna in the TV series “Nashville”), her older sister (Rachel Bilson, Dr. Hart in TV’s “Hart of Dixie”), and her BFFs, played by Alia Shawkat (“Arrested Development”) and Sarah Steele (“The Good Wife”).  Her father (Clark Gregg, who has moved from TV roles to permanent status as Agent Phil Coulson in the Marvel Comics universe) is no help at all, as -- like most of the males in this movie -- he is basically clueless.


Brandy’s summer job is as a lifeguard at a municipal swimming pool, run by a wasted Bill Hader (you knew he’d show up) in what can only be construed as a tribute to Bill Murray in “Meatballs.”  She’s torn between two fellow lifeguards, studly guitar-playing Rusty (Scott Porter, Blake in “The Good Wife”) and nice guy and former study buddy Cameron (Johnny SImmons, “The Perks of Being a Wallflower”).


So you can probably figure out where all this is going.  The question is, do you care?


Some familiar faces from other TV shows or teen movies appear here and there, including Andy Samberg (“SNL”), Christopher Mintz-Plasse (“Superbad”), Donald Glover (“Community”) and Jack McBrayer (“30 Rock”).  None of them does much to liven things up, with the possible exception of Samberg’s Kurt Cobain impression.


Since the movie is set in Boise, Idaho in 1993, for reasons unknown to me, it includes a lot of really awful period music, most of it sex-driven, including “Me So Horny,” “Let’s Talk About Sex” and “U Can’t Touch This.”  Feel free to sing along.  


But ultimately, it all comes down Aubrey Plaza.  I was hoping for a performance along the lines of the driven Tracy Flick (Reese Witherspoon in the brilliant 1999 movie “Election”).  Instead, Plaza’s dial is turned down to tepid and the laughs here are few and far between.  


“The To Do List” is rated R, more for its adult themes and language than for any actual sex scenes.   


I give it a C-Minus.

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