Flashback Friday: The To-Do List

I find myself having an ambivalent reaction to THE TO-DO LIST. From what I understand, the fact that the “teens” in this are being played by people in their mid to late 20’s is an intentional joke. Which is fine, but places the film in a weird spot. If you buy it, it nudges the film towards parody. If you don’t, then it seems a hurried excuse for the fact that the film cannot sell 29 year old Aubrey Plaza as 18.

This is arguably a bit unfair of me. There are several legitimately funny films out there that have cast those far outside the range of being able to play high school that have worked on levels beyond mere parody. WET HOT AMERICAN SUMMER is one in which the likes of Bradley Cooper, Amy Poehler, Michael Ian Black, and Elizabeth Banks play high school aged camp counselors that makes no effort to joke about their age AND no effort to sell them as younger. (And, coincidentally, a movies that could break as mere parody and instead becomes a legitimately funny movie that acknowledges tropes rather than simply catalogs and spits them back, a la SCARY MOVIE, etc.) It works so well that, for most of the movie, I don’t even think about the obvious age disparity between the ages of the actors and the ages of the characters they’re playing. On the other hand is something like 21 JUMP STREET which makes a few jokes at the expense of actors playing characters as teens and then playing the characters trying to pass as teens.

Unfortunately, from the trailer, neither approach seems apparent. That’s not to say the flick won’t achieve it, but the dissonance of Plaza and company shoves itself to the forefront.

Saying all of that, the cast is outstanding. Plaza, Bill Hader, Alia Shawkat, Donald Glover, D.C. Pierson, Connie Britton, Clark Gredd, and many more. It’s hard to look at that list and not get a least little excited, age differences be damned. It was also bumped from February which might indicate that the studio thinks this movie can make some nice summer money.

 Plus, they appear to be graduating from Newington High. Ladies get to wear the yellow robes, what! (photo from filmofilia.com)

Plus, they appear to be graduating from Newington High. Ladies get to wear the yellow robes, what! (photo from filmofilia.com)

LOSIN’ IT

 No, that's not it. For one thing, it didn't drop the "g," so you know it's not cool. For another thing, that mean lady from that weight loss show's on the cover. (image from tower.com)

No, that's not it. For one thing, it didn't drop the "g," so you know it's not cool. For another thing, that mean lady from that weight loss show's on the cover. (image from tower.com)

Parody or not, LIST has its roots in 80’s teen sex farces like this one. Yes, Hollywood has dabbled in such films since most notably with the first AMERICAN PIE which was a surprisingly earnest take on the genre and actually significantly less lewd or male gaze driven than its 80’s counterparts. Other since have included SEX DRIVE (underrated I tell you!), the Seth Green sections of CAN’T HARDLY WAIT (“Yo I gots ta have sex tonight!”), SUPERBAD (more of a coming of age movie that covers the sentimentality with pursuit of sex), and PROJECT X (again more of a big teen party genre movie, but that same “let’s get this kid v-card punched” vibe is present).

However, I didn’t think of any of those when I first read about LIST and then again when I saw the trailer. What I thought of was the Shelley Long-Tom Cruise (and yeah, when it was released, she would’ve gotten top billing) mega-event LOSIN’ IT. And, truth be told, I don’t know why. They don’t share much in common plot wise. One is the story of teen boys making a break for Tijuana to get the sex while a woman simultaneously heads there for  a quickie divorce and their paths cross leading to…BOOM!…sparks. The other is a tale of a graduating overachiever who decides she needs to do it all before college with the same maniacal focus she gave to her studies.

After thinking about it for awhile, the only connection I can find is that both approach sex with a certain…mercenary perspective. The boys want sex. Not with anyone in particular just someone. Other films in this genre include a fantasy object (A SURE THING, Nadia in AMERICAN PIE, PORKY’S, RISKY BUSINESS, THE GIRL NEXT DOOR), a longtime crush (SUPERBAD, I LOVE YOU BETH COOPER), a known entity who suddenly seems more interesting (EURO TRIP, A SURE THING, again), or a surprise person who came from nowhere (Michelle in AMERICAN PIE, JUST ONE OF THE GUYS). Here though, sex is it. Sure, in the end, Long derails the plan with feelings and all that, but that’s not where it begins. Similarly, in LIST, the goal is crossing over items for the sake of getting it done, not to get the guy she’s had a crush on forever or just began lusting over. The goal is not even the pleasure of sex, just the fulfillment of an event to say it was done.

Anyway, it’s a long walk to get there, but that’s why LOSIN’ IT reminded me of THE TO-DO LIST despite differences in plot, POV, and so on.

 Umm...maybe? It has Tom Cruise and those other two guys are in the cast, too. But...it looks too intense. And the title "A Weekend with Lions," doesn't seem quite right. (image from ahashare.com)

Umm...maybe? It has Tom Cruise and those other two guys are in the cast, too. But...it looks too intense. And the title "A Weekend with Lions," doesn't seem quite right. (image from ahashare.com)

So, is LOSIN’ IT any good?

Honestly, it suffers with age. I think I saw this on something like TBS complete with commercial breaks and edited for time and content-ness when I was much younger and thought it was fun. It is essentially a road movie with teens version of BACHELOR PARTY. Or maybe that’s just the donkey talking. In any case, it loses something not being watched on basic cable. I don’t know why, it just does. It’s the kind of movie made to be watched at 3:25 on a random Sunday when there’s no football and you just want to relax on the couch.

It does star the world’s greatest movie star though, so it’s hard to entirely discount it. If it’s still out there on basic, by all means, catch it. I can’t say I’d recommend hitting Netflix or buying it though.

Oh, and fun fact: The directory of LA CONFIDENTIAL and 8 MILE directed this one. So, you know, it’s basically like those two movies combined plus Tom Cruise. Maybe.

 

10 YEARS

I chose this one because I wanted a film with Plaza in a fairly large role. What I really wanted to writer about was MYSTERY TEAM, but I just didn’t think she was onscreen enough to justify that. By all means, rent TEAM though.

Anyway, 10 YEARS is the story of a high school reunion. I’m usually a shocker for this kind of thing, stories of characters coming together after years apart and finding the old bonds strong, changed, or broken by time and distance. This offering in the genus though left me largely cold. Beyond a subplot involving two guys competing for the attention of the class party girl who seems to have maintained her viewpoint and glow since graduation and finding things have changed far more than they could’ve guessed, most moments in the movie felt like they were better told in other films.

That said, Plaza is lowkey fun as a the wife of one of the classmates who sees a side of her husband that she never knew existed and finds herself weirded out and drawn to him because of it.

I can’t recommend it, but it isn’t bad either. The kind of movie I would nod at and say, “Well, they certainly did make a talkie there.” It exists.

 Further evidence this one doesn't leave an impression? I forgot about half these actors were in the case. (photo from collider.com)

Further evidence this one doesn't leave an impression? I forgot about half these actors were in the case. (photo from collider.com)