If you’re of the generation familiar with Snackwells and skorts, then this movie may resonate a little louder for you than it did for this child of the 1980s. Set in 1993, it’s a cleverly drawn coming-of-age picture that gets the tone of the times right—skorts and all—but it left me feeling as though I was watching a throwback to the sex comedies of the early nineties filtered through a 2013 lens. In other words, it’s a less innocent, with a lot more bodily fluids.
High school valedictorian Brandy Klark (Aubrey Plaza) is an overachiever. She’s the publisher of her own magazine, Women With a Y, a straight A student with a full scholarship to Georgetown University and has a Perfect Attendance certificate proudly hanging on her wall.
She’s also a virgin, a status she hopes to change soon with the help of Rusty Waters (Scott Porter), a college surfer stud with a perfect smile. Attacking her new project with the gusto that won her accolades in school, she gets the advice of friends and family (Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Alia Shawkat, Sarah Steele and Rachel Bilson) and makes up a “to do” list, applying the same zeal that made her a mathlete to losing her virginity.
Telling the story from a female point of view is a nice turnaround from the usual boycentric sex comedy story.
At the center of it all is Aubrey Plaza, a comedian and improver best known for her work as the deadpan April on TV’s “Parks and Recreation.” If this part had been played by anyone else—imagine Emma Stone or Imogen Poots—it would have lost some of its charm.
Plaza is naturally off-balance, so the stranger moments of this movie don’t feel forced or quirky for the sake of being quirky. I didn’t much go for some of the bodily fluid gags—or the gross “Caddyshack” tribute—but Plaza trying to vamp it up in an ill fitting bathing suit is a really funny scene.
“The To Do List” is endearingly off-kilter, a different take on the “Porky’s” style of sexual coming-of-age stories usually that are usually headlined by the male members of the cast. I wish it was a bit shorter—did they really need 100 minutes to tell this story?—and a bit funnier, but for anyone who came of age just as The New Kids on the Block were calling it quits (for the first time) there is much to enjoy here.