July 28, 2013

Film Review: Females take the sex-comedy lead in 'To Do List'

By ROGER MOORE/McClatchy Newspapers

So many "lose my virginity over the summer" comedies, but aside from the hilarious "Twilight Saga," how many have told that torrid tale from the girl's point of view?

FILM REVIEW

"THE TO DO LIST," starring Aubrey Plaza, Bill Hader, Scott Porter and Rachel Bilson. Written and directed by Maggie Carey. Rated R for strong crude and sexual content, drug and alcohol use, and language. Running time: 106 minutes.

"The To Do List" is a summer romantic comedy dedicated to rectifying that imbalance in a single stroke. It follows a methodical, college-bound teen (Aubrey Plaza) who hurls herself at this "problem" through a summer course of study. And what follows is a raunchy romp, a "Bridesmaids" to the "Hangovers" of too many hormonal boy movies about virginity.

Writer-director Maggie Carey has assembled a cast that's too old to be playing high schoolers, set her story in the early 1990s and come up with a rude, sometimes uproarious comedy that is as filthy as "American Pie," with just a hint of that film's sentimental sweetness.

Plaza, of TV's "Parks and Recreation" fearlessly puts it all out there as a teen who's put out that she hasn't "put out." Her Brandy is nerdy and needy. All it takes is peer pressure from her supposedly more experienced pals (the hilarious Alia Shawkat and Sarah Steele) to make her add "losing it" to her prep-for-college list.

Brandy, ignoring the insults of her oversexed sis (Rachel Bilson, perfectly cast) and clueless concern of her parents (Clark Gregg and Connie Britton), takes a turn toward sin and away from the Mormon kids' graduation night party the moment she finishes her valedictorian speech.

Ever on task, she keeps sweet and worshipful Cameron (Johnny Simmons) as a sexual experience backup. But her first day as a pool lifeguard she picks out the hunky Rusty (Scott Porter) and plans her summer's big finish, while checking positions, petting variations and foreplay items off her sexual "To Do List."

Plaza is brilliant at playing someone smart and yet blithely incompetent at the social-sexual demands of her peers. Plaza and Bilson make believably shrill sibling rivals, with the bombshell Bilson scoring laugh after laugh with her putdowns.

Bill Hader is the slacker manager of the pool where Brandy tests her methods, Christopher Mintz-Plasse is the would-be player who long ago stole the heart of poor Brandy-pal Wendy (Steele) and Andy Samberg has a cameo as a rocker wannabe.

Like most such comedies, the one-big-idea tends to wear thin and Carey struggles to keep this bouncing along as it traverses that tightrope between tee-hee and tasteless. But the blank-faced Plaza never lets up and never lets on that Brandy is on anything less than a quest: for life experience, liberation and -- dare we hope it? -- love.

 

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