Teens Out to Have Fun. Parents Out to Stop It.
You never forget your first time, that ‘glorious’ rite of passage in Western society — well, that’s what they say anyway. Even if you want to expunge the whole thing from your memory, Hollywood’s been reminding us about it, over and over again; the slip-ups, awkwardness and unease that come hand-in-hand with having intercourse for the very first time. We’ve been seeing cherry-poppin’ movies for years, raunchy stories that center on horny adolescent dudes and the depths they’d go to lose their virginity. The eighties had Porky’s (1981), which is still arguably the Citizen Kane of teenage sex flicks, the nineties had American Pie (1999) — let’s just forget about those shocking direct-to-video spin-offs that featured Eugene Levy, aka Jim’s Dad — and the noughties had Greg Mottola’s terrific Superbad (2007), the aforementioned titles only just the tip of the studio-produced sexcapades.
Few films, however, have explored this longing from a female point of view, nor from the angle of the overprotective parents who aren’t willing to sit by idly while their little girls ‘do it.’ The directorial debut of TV producer and Pitch Perfect co-screenwriter Kay Cannon, Blockers follows a trio of high-school gals who make a pact to lose their virginity on the night of their senior dance, and three of their concerned parents who band together to try and stop them.
The film begins when we meet our protagonists, three girls who’ve been friends since kindergarten, the movie opening when their folks meet one another on their first day of elementary school. We then cut to senior year, where the birds couldn’t be closer. Leading the troupe we have Julie (Kathryn Newton), a fervent teen still living with her insecure mum Lisa (Leslie Mann), whose entire world revolves around her headstrong daughter, who wants to leave the nest and head to UCLA (a fair distance from her home), Lisa clearly distraught by the whole idea. Next up we have tomboy athlete Kayla (Geraldine Viswanathan), a sporty-type brought up by her sensitive jock dad, Mitchell (a terrific John Cena, who seamlessly flips between marshmallow-softness and hard-boiled rage) and her more relaxed mother Marcie (Sarayu Blue). Last, but not least, we have the less-confident Sam (Gideon Adlon), whose relationship with her unhinged dad, Hunter (Ike Barinholtz), is a little rocky, seeing as he’s been absent from her life after going through an ugly divorce with her overbearing mother (June Diane Raphael).
With college literally around the corner, Julie tells her BFFs that she’s decided to do the deed with her long-term beau Austin (Graham Phillips) on prom night, seeing as timing couldn’t be better. That’s when Kayla decides she wants in on the action, too, signaling out a smirking tool with a man-bun named Connor (Miles Robbins) that she sees in the school cafeteria. Sam, on the other hand, is more interested in an eccentric Asian lesbian at her school named Angelica (Ramona Young), but chooses to join in on the pact as well, asking a fedora-hat-wearing nerd, Chad (Jimmy Bellinger), to take her to the event.
As the trio of couples head out for a night of dancing and debauchery, Julie accidentally leaves a group chat open on her laptop, which their parents stumble onto. After a very funny sequence, where the adults read their kids’ suggestive text messages and emoticons and try to rationalize their intentions, the hashtag #SexPact2018 pops up onscreen and unveils the truth behind the emojis. That’s when the movie’s multiplex friendly title, which sounds innocent but actually stands for ‘c*** blockers,’ comes into play, the anxious adults joining forces on a misguided mission to keep their kids from fornicating and making, what they believe will be, the biggest mistake of their lives.
Written by brothers Brian and Jim Kehoe and produced by Evan Goldberg, Seth Rogen and James Weaver, This Is the End (2013), Blockers can feel a bit overstuffed, filmmakers literally throwing everything and the kitchen sink at the screen. We’ve got mayhem a plenty by way of a Fast and the Furious-style car chase (that features ample amounts of projectile vomit), party crashing and the movie’s showpiece sequence, a hilarious butt-chugging contest that sees Cena down a forty through his anus; let’s not forget about a kinky role-playing encounter between Gary Cole and Gina Gershon that brought down the house at my preview screening. While a lot of these scenes are genuinely very funny, it’s the banter between characters (and the spot-on comic timing from the performers) that really worked for me. John Cena’s Mitchell, for example, keeps trying to justify everything he’s seeing, hearing and doing, while the scrappy Ike Barinholtz (who’s a non-stop joke machine) has to constantly tell it like it is. With that said, the movie does lose a bit of steam towards the end, chiefly in its forced sentimentality, which, these days, feels like a given.
When it comes to its attitude towards ‘sex,’ Blockers is also very progressive, with Cannon and her screenwriting team commenting on several of the attitudes and stereotypes associated with girls who lose their virginity at an early age. Additionally, the movie treats sexual experimentation (on the whole) as a natural part of growing up (that no amount of c*** blocking can ever stop), the film portraying the overly conservative parents as fossils who haven’t learnt from their own experiences as teenagers.
Performance-wise, the actresses that play the three young heroines really shine, with each adding a distinct edge to their character. Kathryn Newton, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017), is great as the strong yet sweet Julie, a teen who feels comfortable in her own relationship and who’s confident enough about taking it to the next level. Relative newcomer Gideon Adlon is perfect as Hunter’s daughter, Sam, a hip-nerd coming to terms with her homosexual desires, while Jimmy Bellinger, An American Affair (2008), looks to be having a ball of a time as her pudgy quasi-date Chad. The funniest moments, however, come from Cena’s firecracker of a daughter Geraldine Viswanathan, EMO the Musical (2016), who emerges as the real MVP, her spunky mix of spirit, sass and tenderness constantly lighting up the screen, the young actress destined for bigger and better things. Lastly, newbie Miles Robbins is deliciously unlikable as Kayla’s drug dealing date Connor, whose bad influence constantly rubs Cena the wrong way.
In terms of grown-ups, John Cena, who demonstrated his scene-stealing abilities in both Trainwreck (2015) and Sisters (2015), proves that he can pass as a domesticated neighborhood daddy, the WWE star balancing comedy with tenderness, Cena approaching the role like a coach who’s training his daughter to make a touchdown. Ike Barinholtz, Neighbors (2014), does his usual shtick as motormouth dad Hunter, the 41-year-old comic doing surprisingly well in a touching moment of heartfelt pathos (go figure), while the always-welcome Leslie Mann, This Is 40 (2012), gets to showcase her comedic skills via numerous on-the-nose comments and a third-act bit of physical comedy that had my crowd in stitches. And oh, look out for a short but fun cameo from comedian Hannibal Buress, Daddy’s Home (2015), who makes the most of his brief appearance as Sam’s new stepdad, Frank.
At the end of the day, if the audience that I saw Blockers with is any indication of its reach, I’d say this one’s going to make a ton of money, the picture an undeniably funny ride that’ll play well over the holiday season. In sum, if you’re up for a wild night of sleazy shenanigans, join the party and don’t be a blocker!
3.5 / 5 – Great
Reviewed by Mr. Movie