I was really quite excited when I first heard about this movie, due in no small part to the
fact that the cast list included a number of actors and actresses that I really liked. Though the concept is a little bit cliched, I had no doubts that the stellar roster of talent would be able to make it one to remember. Unfortunately, however, that wasn’t really the case for a number of reasons.
I’ll start with what was definitely the most jarring aspect of this movie: the cast. So many big names turned out to be both a blessing and a curse here, as the movie is centred around 16 year old Brandy Clark, played by 29 year old Aubrey Plaza. This is a trend that is evident throughout, at its worst when you consider that Rusty Waters (supposed to be around 18 in the film) is played by 34 year old Scott Porter. This age divide created a feeling of uneasiness from start to finish and definitely made The To Do List something of an uncomfortable watch.
The story, too, was definitely lacking. The retooling of American Pie‘s “lose your virginity before college” to look at a female perspective is interesting in principle, and even though Brandy, Wendy, and Fiona have a level of camaraderie similar to Finch, Oz, Kevin, and Stiffler, the swimming pool setting makes this movie feel a lot like The Way Way Back minus the heart, and unfortunately this lack of depth is something that is present all the way through, and the somewhat casual approach it takes to the sex (ish) scenes creates more discomfort than it does humour.
That’s not to say that The To Do List is completely without merit, however. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the absolutely fantastic performance of Bill Hader as the down-on-his-luck pool manager. The man delivers every line absolutely perfectly and with no disrespect, just looks like that sort of loser down to a tee. Rachel Bilson, too, is a scene-stealer every time she steps on camera, and Alia Shawkat and Sarah Steele deserve special mention as well. The writing, although largely shallow, is also very funny on occasion and there are some brilliant cameos too (Jack McBrayer is especially fantastic).
All in all, then, The To Do List is a mixed bag. I’d find it difficult to recommend purely on merit, but anyone who has seen and liked members of the cast in other things should probably still give it a go. Not bad but not great, the stellar cast would have benefited more from a story that didn’t make their real ages seem quite as jarring.
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