Ike Barinholtz, Leslie Mann, John Cena, Kathryn Newton, Gideon Adlon, Geraldine Viswanathan, Hannibal Buress, Gary Cole, Gina Gershon
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…Blockers falls short of being modern comedy classic, but it’s still a good time.
Blockers – the “cock” is silent – stakes out as its battlefield the treacherous terrain that is teen sexuality, to (in)decent if uneven comedic effect. The premise is simple but nimble: three female besties – generic Julie (Kathryn Newton), sporty Kayla (Geraldine Viswanathan), and nerdy, questioning Sam (Gideon Adlon) make a pact to all lose their virginities on prom night, but when their parents – harried single mum Lisa (Leslie Mann), macho, hyper-competent Mitchell (John Cena), and unreliable cool dad Hunter (Ike Barinhotz) resolve to stop that very thing from happening. Hijinks of the “raunchy teen comedy” stripe ensue, only this time we get the parents’ POV too.
The narrative neatly bifurcates, paralleling the girls’ prom adventures (limo, drinking, drugs, after party, etc) with their parents’ more ludicrous exploits trying to track them down in order to interuptus their coitus. Refreshingly, the film makes no bones about pointing the finger at the overprotective parents, using Barinholtz’s character to point out that no, they shouldn’t be doing this, yes, they are acting crazy, and no, their kids will not thank them in the future for embarrassing the hell out of them in front of all their friends.
Indeed, the kids are a pretty level-headed and self-possessed bunch. While Newton’s Julie fails to register as anything except Generic Teen Girl Model 37/B, Viswanathan gets to drop one liners like a gender-flipped Superbad-era Jonah Hill as the confident, up for it Kayla, and Adlon gets to do some real emotional work as Sam, who has resolved to have sex with her pseudo-boyfriend, Chad (Jimmy Bellinger) but is wrestling with questions about her own sexuality.
The relationship between Sam and her dad, Barinholtz’s Hunter, is the most interesting and rewarding in the film, largely because of the way the script upends out assumptions about him. Introduced as the kind of lovable but embarrassing, hard-partying stuff-up archetype common to these sorts of things, he gradually reveals hidden depths and hidden traumas, winding up as the most well-rounded character in the film. Not only is he the voice of reason in the parental triumvirate, he’s also clocked that his daughter is gay, and his motives for joining the Blockers is to make sure she doesn’t do something she will definitely regret, as opposed to acting out of some puritanical parental drive.
For their part, Mann and Cena do what they do. Mann is the most experienced comedy performer here, and gets plenty of mileage out of her character’s well-meaning cloyingness and inability to tell when she’s overreacting. Cena, who somewhere along the way has become one of the most dependably funny figures in mainstream American screen comedy, milks his own staggering masculinity for all its worth. Cena’s gift, too often absent in many actors who want to be able to straddle comedy and action, is that he doesn’t care if he looks cool, he just cares if he’s being funny – it’s impossible to imagine, for example, Vin Diesel or Dwayne Johnson signing off on Blockers’ already-infamous “butt-chugging” scene.
Still, Blockers is hit and miss – although more the former than the latter. There’s an odd disconnect, a sense that we’re watching a movie about somebody’s idea about teenage female sexuality and not a more knowledgeable and candid take. That’s more than a bit disappointing given that the film is the directorial debut of Pitch Perfect scribe Kay Cannon, but a look at the dude-heavy roster of credited writers – Brian Kehoe, Jim Kehoe, Jon Hurwitz, Hayden Schlossberg, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg – indicates perhaps a few too many Y chromosomes in the creative pool for this to feel really authentic.
It is funny, though, and that’s the test of a comedy in the final analysis, and occasionally taps into deeper truths and complexities than we might normally expect in this sort of thing. Ultimately, Blockers falls short of being modern comedy classic, but it’s still a good time.