There aren’t a lot of comedies that can keep my attention from start to finish, but once in a while a gem finds its way through. “Blockers” is a film that has intrigued me over the last few months with a promising young cast of diverse actresses and some talented adult performers as well. When it arrived to good reviews I knew I had to give it a shot and I have to say, as convoluted as the story is and despite the holes in its moral concept “Blockers” was pretty entertaining and scores in the laugh department. Let’s take a closer look. This is my review of “Blockers”.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT
“Blockers” is the directorial debut of Kay Cannon, the writer of the “Pitch Perfect” franchise, and focuses on a trio of parents who team together to prevent their daughters from losing their virginity on prom night. Longtime friends and soon-to-be graduates Julie (Kathryn Newton) a carefree and intelligent young woman, Kayla (Geraldine Viswanathan) an athletic student with a wild personality, and Sam (Gideon Adlon) a reserved and quiet young woman still unsure of her sexuality, make a pact to lose their virginity after prom without telling their parents anything. After discovering their daughters’ plans Julie’s clingy mother Lisa (Leslie Mann), Kayla’s overprotective father Mitchell (John Cena) and Sam’s absent father Hunter (Ike Barinholtz) rekindle their past friendship in order to stop the plan embarking on their mission with hilarious results. Along the way both trios learn a bit about themselves and the true bond and trust that is required between a parent and a child.
This film is composed of two main trios, the daughters and the parents, and both have their charm. Most of the action focuses on the parents and the roadblocks they face as they try to keep up with their kids and stop the sex pact. Leslie Mann, Ike Barinholtz and John Cena are actually quite good together and seem to work well as a group of parents who are inherently flawed and find themselves in a precarious position of trying to do what’s best for their daughters. There’s a lot of character development among these three. Cena plays against character as a touchy-feeling overprotective dad whose strength is more a coincidental trait that a driving aspect of his character. Mann is a damaged mom who holds her daughter too close to her heart to let her be her own person and Barinholtz is pretty much what you’d expect of him, the comic relief loser who actually kind of understands the situation better than the other two. Considering that we spend most of the movie with these three I was happy to enjoy the characters presented on screen as these are parents that contain heart and seem to have good intentions. They’re quirky and fun and fit right at home in a film targeting the teen demographic more than the parents, but none of them feel stupid of out of touch (mostly). They feel genuine and relatable right down to their ignorance of their own flaws and hypocrisy.
The other side of the spectrum is the three daughters, played by Julie Decker, Geraldine Viswanathan and Gideon Adion, and while all three are still very young actresses I was pleasantly surprised with the work they put in to portraying not just memorable teenagers, but young women that felt modern and charismatic free of many of the established stereotypes of the past. They come off as true friends ready to share an experience they will remember for a lifetime and I could truly see their bond being impossible to break. There’s never that dull moment where one friend turns on the other. That is saved for the parents. Instead we get a surprisingly fresh take on teenagers seeking their first sexual experiences from three actresses who own their roles and stand out from the crowd, giving each of the daughters their own personalities and conflicts to face along the way. As their individual climaxes come around (see what I did there) their stories each have different outcomes all relevant to today’s young crowd. Their talented actresses and they helped make this film as good as it is.
“Blockers” should be commended for having not only a talented cast, but a diverse one and not just in race but in sexuality as well. Throughout the film we get to see three young women blossom in a series of coming of age stories that don’t lean to heavily on stereotypes and tropes, but rather focus on the unique nature of each of the girls cramming several different life-changing experiences and growth processes into an hour and 45 minutes rather smoothly. In less than two hours we see the generic “lose my virginity” storyline, a young woman break from her perfect image to explore her rebellious side, and another young woman struggle with her sexual identity and none of these stories feel phoned in. There’s no pandering or unneeded side quests among these young ladies. Again, that’s left to the parents. Instead what we get is an honest and true presentation of modern young women who are strong, confident and capable of making their own decisions despite their parents’ doubts and while they do make some mistakes, as kids do, that all plays into the lesson THEY hope to teach the world, that mistakes and chances are all part of growing up whether those incidents be big or small.
One of the best parts of “Blockers” is that is balances two major storylines perfectly through great pacing and writing and while I enjoyed the coming-of-age stories more the focus on the adults wasn’t that bad either. I have my issues with the way the adult story played out that I’ll talk about later, but what I liked about “Blockers” is that just like the daughters the parents each learn valuable lessons throughout the film and we come to realize that these parents are no more understanding or capable of facing the world than they think their daughters are. These are damaged, imperfect people who embark on their own odd coming-of-age story and experience realizations as a result of their own pact to stop their daughters’ mission to lose their virginity. To make things better their adventure is actually filled with some very funny moments. Whether it’s the car chase or the butt chugging scene there are plenty of moments of levity that are worth your time and even though “Blockers” might not be the most original comedy in the world it pays off and offers just enough jokes to be hilarious without overdoing it. There’s a nice balance between the drama and the laughs and that makes for a good comedy.
WHAT DIDN’T WORK
As I said above I’m not the biggest fan of the adult storylines in comparison to the daughters’ storylines. I did feel the main story we see focusing on the parents leans heavily on the same old clichés we’ve seen parents go through in many films before and although “Blockers” does these tropes better than many of those projects, it’s still worth noting they are borrowed or only mildly adjusted concepts all the same. We also get the normal, tired must haves of modern comedies like the token loser whose really more intelligent than the rest of the people in the group, the car crash scene, the unneeded explosion, and PLENTY of sex based comedy including cameos by some man parts. Still even as cliché as some of “Blockers” it all works and again provides a funny story where each of the parts fit perfectly even if some feel like they don’t completely belong.
That said though my biggest problem with the movie isn’t the cliche comedy or the underwhelming adult story, it’s the flaw in its message. I mentioned in the beginning of this review the holes in the morals of this story and what I mean by that is that yes “Blockers” provides a great tale of women empowerment and individuality in a world where women are often seen as more victims than capable people, but it also hits you over the head pretty hard with that message and lacks subtlety. Then you get to the core of the problem and that’s how the film somewhat turns the parents into the bad guys for pursuing their children to stop them from making what they perceive to be major life mistakes. I know I’m taking this too seriously, but that’s the point of me doing these reviews. “Blockers” doesn’t go so far as to call the parents out of touch, but it does imply they are hypocrites, and maybe they are, but it’s a bad message to present to the target audience that parents can’t ever be right especially with something like sex. My problem with “Blockers” isn’t that these young girls made a pact to explore their sexuality on prom night and that they stand for the freedom of women everywhere to be who they want to be and make their mistakes. I actually appreciate that noble cause. My problem is that the film fails in its attempt to capture the subtleties of parenthood and properly portray how it’s a balancing game between letting your kid be themselves while also guiding them towards good decisions. Instead it makes the parents out to be more wrong than right with little true acknowledgement that maybe they have a point, even if their point is extreme. It’s a glaring flaw in an otherwise smart and great comedy with a lot of heart and a noble purpose.
I’m not always a fan of sex comedies. I actually hate them more than I like them, but “Blockers” is one I enjoyed and would recommend. It’s a smart, fun and well-acted film with a great cast that oozes chemistry, whether it’s the parents or the daughters. It may fall flat in its ability to juggle what’s truly right or wrong when it comes to the hard-core parenting that takes place on screen, but in the end it’s a relatively harmless comedy that brings the laughs and isn’t afraid to cross the line without crossing it too far. Comedy in general isn’t my favorite genre and takes a lot of suspension of disbelief to enjoy it, but occasionally a movie comes around that no matter how seriously I want to take it I just can’t help but enjoy the ride and let my cinematic cynicism melt away for a few hours. “Blockers” is one of the rare films that can do that mainly because even though it hits you a little hard on the noggin with it’s social commentary and doesn’t do the best job truly capturing the parent-child dynamic completely in its third act there’s still a lot it does accomplish and I’ll take a slightly flawed comedy over 90% of what the genre has to offer any day of the week.