Blockers Directed by Kay Cannon
Starring Leslie Mann, John Cena, Ike Barinholtz and Ramona Young
Published Apr 06, 2018On the surface, there's nothing all that revolutionary about the perversely funny Blockers (a terrible title, considering the missing "cock" gets represented on poster only with a helpful image of a rooster). After all, it's essentially your typical American Pie-style sex comedy about a group of teenagers making a pact to lose their virginity on the night of their high school prom. But by simply making it about three young ladies trying to get drunk and laid instead of men, the movie confronts gender stereotypes and inequalities head-on while poking fun at the overly protective way that parents handle adolescent girls on the verge of adulthood, compared to boys.
We first meet the trio of girls as they are being dropped off as kids for their first day of school. As they meet and become fast friends, their parents looking on quickly decide that this means they are also required to become friends now too. A home video montage of the kids growing up takes us to present day, where those same kids may still be best friends but a lot sure has changed since.
Single mom Lisa (Leslie Mann) is unaware that her daughter Julie (Kathryn Newton) plans to consummate her relationship on prom night with her long-term boyfriend (Graham Phillips) and attend college across the country at UCLA. Meanwhile, burly married dad Mitchell (John Cena) is oblivious to the fact that his daughter Kayla (Geraldine Viswanathan) is planning to hook up with her lab partner (Miles Robbins), who also happens to be the Julia Child of drug edibles. And then there's Hunter (Ike Barinholtz), the divorced and largely absent dad of Sam (Gideon Adlon) who correctly suspects that Sam is gay but doesn't know that she's still planning on sleeping with her nerdy date on prom night (Jimmy Bellinger) just to be certain.
It's only after the trio of girls have left for prom in a limousine with their dates that the parents discover their prurient pact in a great scene where they're forced to decode a series of emojis after stumbling upon the girls' texts to each other. Naturally, the three decide that they must put an end to their daughters' debauched ambitions, but this proves to be harder than anticipated. Seeking information about the girls' post-prom whereabouts, they find more than they bargained for when they reach out to Gary Cole and Gina Gershon as a classmate's parents who engage in a very healthy and open sex life.
Assembling a comedic team often requires banking on chemistry that might look better on paper than in practice but thankfully, it's even better than you would imagine here. Cena continues his transition from wrestling superstar to a bona fide comedic performer, enjoyably playing against type with his frequent emotional outbursts. Barinholtz gets to add a little more depth than usual to his typically goofy and unhinged presence, while Mann anchors the whole thing with the kind of stellar performance that it feels she has been building toward her whole career. In fact, these are probably the best roles all three of these actors — typically relegated to smaller supporting roles in comedies — have had to date.
But rather than only focus on these buzzkills, the movie doesn't shy away from showing the antics of the three teen girls looking to live it up on prom night. Aside from their obvious sexual plans, they also engage in their share of drinking, drugs and the kind of unabashed depravity that you aren't used to seeing from girls this young in films outside of cautionary tales. To this end, the young actors all show a great deal of natural charisma and innate comedic talent, with Viswanathan emerging as a standout by the time she starts tripping on her date's gourmet drug-infused delicacies.
Kay Cannon, making her directorial debut after penning the Pitch Perfect trilogy, deserves a lot of credit for helming a comedy that's not only consistently amusing but also inherently subversive in its design. With writers Jim and Brian Kehoe, she's crafted a vehicle that allows teen girls to be just as wild and raunchy as the boys while simultaneously using their parents to comment on the restrictions placed upon women in these kinds of films and society in general. Yes, it's still a teen sex comedy, but this is as progressive as these comedies get. (Universal)