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New Release Review - The To Do List

In the summer between high school and college, a teenage girl vows to lose her virginity with the local hunk.

Directed by: Maggie Carey
Starring: Aubrey Plaza, Johnny Simmons, Bill Hader, Rachel Bilson, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Andy Samberg, Donald Glover, Clark Gregg, Connie Britton, Scott Porter




Brandy (Plaza) graduates high school in the summer of 1993 with top marks but little in the way of life experience. When her friends force her to attend a graduation party, Brandy gets drunk and has a fumble with local hunk Rusty (Porter) who mistakes her for someone else. Her eyes opened to a new world of sex, Brandy vows to lose her virginity to Rusty before the summer ends. Worried by her lack of experience, she compiles a list of sexual techniques and sets about indulging in each one with a variety of willing boys, one of whom, Cameron (Simmons), falls for Brandy in the process.
At some point in the late nineties, the art of the credit sequence began to disappear from cinema. I can't recall the specific film, but I remember my shock and confusion at seeing the first movie to eschew the tradition. Now, the credit sequence is a rare breed; indeed, several movies don't even bother telling us their title until the end credits. It's a real loss, as a credit sequence gives a film-maker a unique chance to set the tone of their film outside of the narrative. Can you imagine the films of Hitchcock shorn of those great Saul Bass credits? Or the fabulous mood-setting credits of the Dollars trilogy or the Bond series? 'The To Do List' immediately got me onboard, opening as it does with a great credits sequence that sees its titles implemented into a selection of nineties' ephemera in our heroine's bedroom; actors names scrawled onto the spine labels of VHS tapes, for example.
The film continues with a very accurate depiction of the early nineties and its main character, Brandy, is the same age as this writer was back in '93, so I had a warm nostalgic glow for much of the movie. Unfortunately, nostalgia alone isn't enough to hang a movie on, and all too often Maggie Carey's comedy relies on riffing on the pop culture of the era for laughs.
It may feature some outwardly feminist stylings but, however you want to dress it, 'The To Do List' is really just a gender reassigned 'American Pie' or 'Porky's'. Call it postmodernism, if you must, but we've seen most of these teen sex scenarios a hundred times before.
The movie really strives for charm but only hits the mark in scenes featuring Brandy's family. Bilson, Gregg and Britton, as Brandy's sister, father and mother are all great, providing the film with some much needed heart. Whenever this trio appears onscreen, 'The To Do List' feels like a different, and far superior, film.
5/10


Eric Hillis