It’s true that most teenage sex comedies tend to be told from the perspective of one or more of their male characters. The To Do List’s writer/director Maggie Carey aims to shake this up by making a familiarly toned sex romp but centred on a female, showing that the girls can be just as lovably raunchy. Unfortunately though, the film ends up proving to be a juvenile, vulgar and witless film, like many of the sub-American Pie cash-ins that followed in its wake.
Aubrey Plaza stars as Brandy, an academically very successful student who’s just graduated from high school, but realises she has no real knowledge or experience of sex. She decides the best thing to do is make a list of all the sexual experiences she’d like to have before going to college and sets out to achieve them over the summer.
So most teenage-girl aimed films at the moment tend to be considerably tamer than this, and The To Do List proudly avoids toning anything down, and is unlikely to alienate fans of this type of immature comedy. Although it’s not the main story, it still appears to feature a YA novel-type situation though, in which we have a female protagonist pining for some hot, frequently shirtless guy, while oblivious to her ‘nice-guy’ friend who likes her.
Parks and Recreation’s Plaza is woefully miscast in the lead, never for a moment convincing as an inexperienced teenager (she’s actually in her late twenties). She heads up a surprisingly impressive cast of familiar comedy faces, all of whom can’t really elevate such weak material, (what drew them all to it is mystifying). The film also has some potential to stand out by adopting an early nineties setting, meaning there’s no internet or smartphones, and the opportunity to use some nostalgic songs. Unfortunately the period differences are barely relevant and the song choices as unimaginative as Me So Horny and Let’s Talk About Sex.
I’ve read some arguments that there’s a pseudo-feminist message one can take from the fact that the story is all about a girl wishing to do these things on her own terms but honestly, it’s hard to see any sort of inspiration in such lowbrow material, the nadir of which tries to gain laughs from having a character literally eating a piece of shit.