A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The To Do List is an early '90s-set comedy that focuses on a naive teenage girl's quest to learn all about sex during the summer before she goes away to college: She makes an extensive list of sexual acts and then spends the next few months checking things off. Expect lots of graphic discussions about sex and several scenes in which the main character (played by Aubrey Plaza) engages in various activities on her list, including oral sex and intercourse (everything is more suggested than shown, but it all adds up to an overall tone of raunchiness). A few scenes show her in her underwear or topless (seen from behind) but there's no graphic nudity. In addition to all the sexual content, there's also plenty of swearing ("f--k," "s--t," and more), heavy teen drinking/partying, and some characters smoking pot.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Straight-A student and general straight arrow Brandy (Aubrey Plaza) is determined to learn about sex during the summer before starting college. She's got a lot of ground to cover, since she's a virgin who's barely even kissed anyone. Always methodical, she creates THE TO DO LIST, an extensive compendium of various sexual activities, and then sets out to check off each item. While she learns quite a lot about physical contact, she's much slower to grasp the emotional nuances of relationships. Brandy is surprised to discover that her experimentation is affecting the people around her, including her best friends (Alia Shawkat and Sarah Steele) and high school study pal Cameron (Johnny Simmons), who's nursing a crush and is disappointed to realize that, despite a few fumbling encounters, Brandy doesn't seem to share his feelings.
Is it any good?
The To Do List is crude, vulgar, silly ... and very, very funny. It's the epitome of taking something -- in this case, a plot that's so basic but so authentic that it's genius -- and truly running with it. On the surface, it might seem like any other coming-of-age sexfest, but in truth, it's actually fairly revolutionary in some respects. Women aren't villainized for having desires; men are equally invested in emotions and relationships. There are few stereotypes -- and the ones that are present are quickly upended. (Even the hunk isn't as prototypical as characters like him usually are.) The soundtrack and early '90s wardrobe and details are spot-on, too.
And the movie is gifted with a strong cast, spearheaded by Plaza, who's excellent in her portrayal of a perfect student who focuses her prodigious intelligence on the goal of starting college as a sexually experienced young woman. Sure, we have to suspend our disbelief somewhat -- is a girl as smart as Brandy really not aware that feelings complicate sex? -- and some plotlines go nowhere (why bring up someone's inability to swim if it never compromises him?), but that's a pittance to pay for enjoying this refreshingly straightforward and seriously hilarious (if undeniably raunchy) movie.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Brandy's approach to learning about sex. Do you think she's too clinical? What influences her perspective on the topic? Parents, talk to your teens about your own values regarding sex and relationships.
How does the movie depict teen drinking and drug use? Are there realistic consequences for either/both?
How do Brandy's activities affect the people around her, including her friends, her sister, and her study pal, Cameron?
- In theaters: July 26, 2013
- On DVD or streaming: November 19, 2013
- Cast: Alia Shawkat, Aubrey Plaza, Bill Hader, Johnny Simmons
- Director: Maggie Carey
- Studio: CBS Films
- Genre: Comedy
- Run time: 104 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: pervasive strong crude and sexual content including graphic dialogue, drug and alcohol use, and language - all involving teens
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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