The To Do List – 2013 – Dir. Maggie Carey – 104 min. – United States
Writer’s note: okay, I’m trying to get back to doing these again because I need something else to do in my life and this always made me somewhat happy. Hopefully I can keep it up because I plan on seeing a whole lot of movies the next few months (as my budget will allow). I also plan on finishing older ones that I had started. Okay, here we go…
First off, I like to think I’m not a prude about movies. Sure, I watch a lot of very serious, dramatic, life-altering films that make you think about life or expose you to an issue that you never knew about. But I also watch plenty of dumb, mind-numbing, sex-penis-fart joke movies (maybe I’ll get around to This Is The End some day and write about how much I loved it).
With all that said, I really wanted to like ‘The To Do List’. I’m a fan of pretty much all the players in this film and their brand of comedy. I didn’t even read reviews beforehand because I want to enjoy this with a clean slate. But if the simplest gauge to judge a comedy is how much you laugh, then I should’ve enjoyed this as much as Schindler’s List.
But that may be a bit harsh. Some of you may watch this movie and think “Lyle, you have no soul.” I did laugh at some parts. The most redeemable qualities about this movie is 1) it’s set in the 90s and is pretty accurate to the time period (I checked) 2) Bill Hader as the mean, but lovable stoner boss 3) Clark Gregg as the dad/ local Judge because I’m on an Avengers/ Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. hype 4) the music is awesome because well, it’s the 90s
And that’s not to say Aubrey Plaza doesn’t do a good job as the lead character: super up-tight smarty pants Brandy Klark who is on a quest to level up her sexual experience before she enters her first year in college. In fact, most of my favorite actors don’t do a horrible job in the roles they have. But I suspect that’s mainly because of their natural talent (that depends on how you feel about Rachel Bilson, who can be a toss up).
Initially, I couldn’t quite put my finger on why I didn’t like this movie that much. In the end, it lies with the writer/ director. I’ve never seen anything Maggie Carey has done, which has mostly been on TV, so I can’t tell you if she’s normally really good at her craft. There are a million comedies out there about sex and ones like ‘Bridesmaids’ and ‘Pitch Perfect’ are putting women more and more in the spotlight of a genre that is dominated by men. This movie tries to follow them, but the humor suffers from overall weak characters and uneven story telling. Sure, a comedy may not always need that. But with with so many comedies making similar jokes, it’s what separates the good ones from the lazy ones. In the end, the sexual and awkward situational comedy that appears on screen fell on my deaf ears when I’ve seen them in sharper, more-developed stories of the same ilk.
I can see how others might disagree and love this movie. I can give this movie props for showing that women can venture into crude, sexual humor just like the boys. But give me Anchorman/ 40-Year-Old Virgin/ Bridesmaids. Hell, let’s go back further to ‘There’s Something About Mary’ for better use of semen.