Starring Aubrey Plaza and Bill Hader. Rating not available.
First-time writer-director Maggie Carey takes teen humping to awkward, gross new depths in The To Do List. Let’s just say there’s enough fluid sloshing around here to make the infamous Something About Mary “hair-gel scene” seem tame. Consider yourself warned.
Apparently bent on making a female-flavoured American Pie for a new generation, Carey has crafted a film that’s not half as clever or hip as it thinks it is. Part of the problem is that its Tracy Flick–styled protagonist, Brandy Klark (Aubrey Plaza), is permanently set to unlikable-automaton mode. When the valedictorian and mathletes president realizes the one gap in her education is sex, she writes up a to-do list that outlines every act she must pursue before starting university. Yes, finger banging, dry humping, hand job, and blowjob are all on there, and you’re going to see them all painfully play out in the film’s crude slapstick.
Admittedly, Carey gets the retro ’90s setting hilariously right. To a soundtrack that ranges from the crass 2 Live Crew anthem “Me So Horny” to Pavement’s geek-grunge “Cut Your Hair”, girls wear high-waisted jeans and scrunchies, and guys sport Eddie Vedder manes and soul patches. The main setting, a dumpy community pool where Brandy and her gang of idiots work as lifeguards all summer, is tone-perfect in bleak Boise, Idaho.
As for the cast, Bill Hader, the director’s hubby, dives headlong into his role as the permastoned pool manager. Amid all the other people wasted in the film, Andy Samberg as a brain-dead grunge singer wins first place.
Carey tries to wrap it all up in a tidy yet cynical moral. But let’s face it: it’s hard to remember any lessons from a film when the prolonged sight of neon-green melon-liqueur barf is still mentally scarring you.