If you’ve ever wanted to see John Cena butt-chug a forty through a funnel, Blockers is the movie for you! (If that’s your main reason for seeing the movie, we might need a longer talk.)
Questionable drinking games aside, Blockers is a raunchy teen comedy that also gives equal screen time to the adults, resulting in a film that — while occasionally feeling overstuffed — is still an original and overdue addition to the genre.
Movies like Porky’s and American Pie have been plumbing the depths of what horny high school dudes will do to lose their virginity for decades, but strangely, no film has ever explored that desire from the female perspective, at least not with the honesty and hilarity of Blockers. Pitch Perfect writer Kay Cannon makes her directorial debut here, confidently juggling her cast’s comedic instincts with a frenetic but engaging story, as three overprotective parents set out to try and prevent their daughters from losing their virginity over the course of one chaotic night.
Its closest spiritual sibling is probably Easy A, which interrogated the ways that female sexuality can be weaponized — both by bullies and social climbers — but in Blockers, the act of losing it is treated with the matter-of-factness it deserves; for some people it’s a big deal, for others it’s a burden, and more often than not, it’s just a thing you do because you want to do it.
Those three perspectives are embodied by the idealistic Julie (Kathryn Newton, last seen in Big Little Lies and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) who decides to seal the deal on prom night with her long-term boyfriend because she wants it to be “perfect”; shy Sam (Gideon Adlon, daughter of Better Things creator Pamela Adlon), a Lord of the Rings nerd who’s pretty sure she’s attracted to other girls but feels like she should try hooking up with a guy to make sure; and athletic Kayla (Geraldine Viswanathan), who basically picks the first guy she sees across the cafeteria when Julie reveals her plan, because why not?
Unfortunately for them, Julie’s single mom Lisa (Leslie Mann, bringing her A-game as usual), Sam’s absentee dad Hunter (Ike Barinholtz), and Kayla’s competitive but sensitive father Mitchell (Cena) get wind of their plans thanks to a series of suggestive emoji messages left visible on Julie’s laptop, and embark on an increasingly insane quest to protect their daughters’ innocence. (Hunter is the wild card here, since he’s aware of Sam’s desires and just wants to ensure that she has a good night, at times actively working to derail Lisa and Mitchell’s objective.)
Thankfully, it’s made clear just how archaic Lisa and Mitchell’s perspective is; in the film’s most heavy-handed scene, Mitchell’s wife Marcie (Sarayu Blue) tells them off for perpetuating double standards, veering the film into unnecessarily preachy territory when the rest of the script does a much better job of illustrating how empowered, capable and grounded these teenagers are without needing to signpost it. It’s also a refreshing inversion of the typical teen movie that none of the girls are objectified or commodified, and none of the boys are either — these kids are all self-aware enough to know what they want (or what they think they want), and hilariously blunt about discussing it.
While the film does an admirable job of dismantling the outdated stereotypes about how boys and girls approach sex, the script really shines in how it examines the parental anxieties inherent in raising teenagers, forcing these helicopter parents to reckon with the fact that their children are growing up — something that no amount of c*** blocking can change.
The true irony of Blockers is that the parents end up getting themselves into far more debauched situations than their daughters during their quest, and some of the film’s biggest laughs come from watching Mann, Barinholtz and Cena play to their comedic strengths and riff off each other — Mann, in particular, pulls off a spectacular physical comedy scene that had the SXSW crowd cheering at the premiere, while Cena’s fearless commitment to his macho marshmallow routine results in some hysterical gags beyond the unfortunate butt-chugging incident. Where the movie starts to come unstuck is in its desire to top every setpiece with one that’s somehow even crazier — the jokes have an impressive hit ratio (to the point where the SXSW crowd definitely missed some punchlines because they were still laughing from the last one), but there are points where Lisa, Mitchell and Hunter’s mission starts to border on parody because their next obstacle is so bonkers, which may be due to the number of writers credited, including Brian Kehoe, Jim Kehoe, Jon Hurwitz, Hayden Schlossberg, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg.
The teenagers are all just as dynamic as their parents, with Viswanathan proving to be the standout thanks to some enviable one-liners pitch-perfect (no pun intended) delivery, but pretty much everyone on screen is awesome to hang out with for two hours, and that’s half the battle for most comedies.
While Blockers treads some familiar territory in its sex pact escapades, and occasionally buckles under the weight of its escalating insanity, its fresh perspective and stellar casting ensure a coming-of-age comedy that adds something vital to the genre, hopefully paving the way for plenty more comedies that don’t rely on outdated “battle of the sexes” tropes for their laughs.