If “Bridesmaids” was the female version of “The Hangover,” then “The To Do List” could be considered the female version of “American Pie.” You could also call it the female version of “Superbad,” the raunchier version of “Easy A,” or the 1990s version of “Sixteen Candles.”
No matter what you compare it to, “The To Do List” still stands out on its own as a funny, cute, and gleefully vulgar comedy. Much of this has to do with the film’s star and first-time director/writer, both of whom we ought to be seeing more of in the future.
Audrey Plaza of TV's “Parks & Recreation” is one of those rising young actresses that’s been in dire need of her own star vehicle for some time. She finds the perfect leading role here as Brandy Klark, the class valedictorian whose made plenty of time for studying and worshipping Hilary Clinton, but no time for sexual conquests.
It’s the summer of 1993, and Brandy wants nothing more than to lose her virginity before college. To prepare herself for this milestone, Brandy makes a to-do list in her trusty Trapper Keeper of sexual experiences she wishes to have. Since the Internet wasn’t that mainstream at this point, however, Brandy isn’t even sure what half of the items on her list mean.
To fulfill her sexual goals, Brandy enlists the help of several guys. There’s Johnny Simmons as Cameron, the nice guy Brandy should be with, Scott Porter as Rusty Waters, the hunky lifeguard Brandy would rather be with, Christopher Mintz-Plasse as Cameron’s best friend, Andy Samberg as a meathead lead guitarist, and Donald Glover looking a lot like one of the kids from “Family Matters.”
Brandy is additionally offered advice from Alia Shawkat and Sarah Steele as her best friends, Rachel Bilson as her soon-to-be-married older sister, and Connie Britton as her sexually confident mother. The only person not helping Brandy out much on either end is her deadbeat manager at the community pool, played by Bill Hader. He does deliver some of the film’s most hilarious one-liners, however.
While very funny and well acted, “The To Do List” does have one disadvantage. For the most part, it’s one of those coming of age movies where you know everything that’s going to happen and what’s going to be learned. But much like somebody’s first sexual venture, the big climax isn’t always the most important thing. What is important it the journey there and what you walk away with. On that basis, “The To Do List” totally nails it.
This is the first feature film from Bill Hader’s wife, Maggie Carey, who has mainly worked in television and shorts up until now. She’s put together a smart, edgy, and fearless debut that reeks of '90s culture. As somebody who was only three in 1993, you can imagine how old this makes me feel.
• Nick Spake is a college student at Arizona State University. He has been working as a film critic for the past seven years, reviewing movies on his website, NICKPICKSFLICKS.com.