Judge Katie Herrell wants to forget this movie before she dies.
"Do what you need to be doing."
Ahh, "The List." You know, the list of things you want to do before you die. Everyone has one. Some stay mental. Some become missions. Some are silly. And some are life changing. Watching Things to Do was only on my to-do this week list. Afterwards, I crumpled that list up and threw it in the trash. Happily.
Facts of the Case
After a soul-sucking year as an office drone, Adam Stevenson (Mike Stasko) returns to his boyhood home to reevaluate life. Enter "The List." Enter crazy Mac (Daniel Wilson) to help him complete the list. Enter a pretty girl. Oh, there's also a soapbox car and an airplane made out of balsa wood. The End.
Adam works in the "City." I understand that to be New York, but it is never identified and the shots of the "City" consist of the most painful of office cubes and a rooftop with, for whatever reason, 1045 (elevation?) written on the wall. There's also a park. So the "City" could be anywhere and that's obviously the point.
After a disturbing event, which I will leave out for suspense, Adam decides to take the summer off and recuperate at his parents house in the "Suburbs." Again, these suburbs could be anywhere—except for the fact that all of the men in the cast have Canadian or Midwestern accents. This is particularly noticeable on the word ABOUT. I wish the phrase "row my boat" had been used. That's a good one for long vowel sounds.
Adam's parents are pleased and annoyed to have their son home for the summer. The mom sends him to do the grocery shopping, sans car, and the dad needs his help transporting the new sofa. Both of these actors make scant appearances, but they really have the "our son is grown we have nothing in common anymore" shtick down.
Another geographical hint is that the mom plays candlepin bowling. I have only experienced this version of the game in Boston, but that doesn't mesh with the accents. Maybe the movie is set in Canada somewhere (IMDb lists the shooting location as Windsor, Ontario, although that's not necessarily the setting of the movie). Doesn't matter.
At the grocery store, Adam meets Mac, an old high school friend, sorta. Mac yells at the gumball machine; then he pees on the outside grocery store wall. Mac's the "sticking it to The Man" character. Although so is Adam in a way. But neither really seems to believe wholeheartedly in their cause; they both seem kind of disengaged and bored. This was also my reaction to the movie. Even the "Behind the Scenes" portion of the Special Features was slow and boring.
At times the storyline, while not original, makes you chuckle or nod your head in commiseration. After watching an episode of The Carlisle Show (excerpts from this Jerry Springer-esque show are also part of the Special Features), Adam decides to make a life to-do list; the next day he goes skydiving. In quick succession he and Mac tick off the numerous things on Adam's list, which includes blowing up report cards and picking tennis balls off a school roof. Heady goals.
The scenery isn't particularly stellar, and there's no fancy camera work, but then that's life, and this movie is about life, about living it. But everything is so hum-drum. It could have been artsy hum-drum, but it never quite gets there. I didn't want any of the ratty old t-shirts. The kicks are old school, but not necessarily hip. I kept trying to decide if Adam's hair was styled in a faux-hawk, but decided it was just a poor comb job. So everything's sort of moving along slowly…
…and then we meet Julie Bartley (Amy Ballantyne), the love interest. Julie doesn't walk, she lurches. And she wears a sash. A prize for being "Miss Tomato Festival," or something. She's a bottled blonde with poor fashion sense. But you see, she's supposed to be the hottie. Her acting is so forced that I'm drawn back into the movie. I feel bad when an actor's performance is awful. I know they're trying, and I want people who try to succeed. Poor Julie.
On another negative note, one hour into the film the voices become out of sync with the character's mouths. I always marvel when this happens on a television commercial. Is it my t.v.? Is it my eyes? I always have to ask for a back-up opinion. Thankfully, the sequence got back together after less than five minutes, but by then I was watching the minutes tick slowly away. I got up and brushed my teeth, hoping to rush back with a "what did I miss?" urgency. But then I decided to floss.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Adam/Mike looks like a younger version of Mark Whalberg. And Mr. Whalberg had his share of movie and life mishaps before he really struck it big. So there's hope…for everyone, and that's a theme of the film. Besides, Mr. Stasko plays his role as written; he is a realistic depressed twentysomething. Mr. Wilson is apparently related to the famous Wilson brothers. While he lacks the exaggerated facial features that really make a star, he could have been in Dazed and Confused without really trying.
A review excerpt on the DVD cover from BPM Magazine compares Things to Do to Garden State and My Name is Earl, saying Things to Do is funnier but more subtle than My Name is Earl and "less pretentious" than Garden State. While I agree that Things to Do belongs in the same category as the above mentioned, I wouldn't exactly call it funny, and I wouldn't call Garden State pretentious. I would also compare Things to Do to Sofia Coppola's The Virgin Suicides as both movies have a washed-out (this includes the color palate), slow-paced, angsty air to them.
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