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Review: Blockers (2018)

Blockers (2018)

Directed by: Kay Cannon

Premise: Three parents (Leslie Mann, John Cena, and Ike Barinholtz) discover that their daughters have made a pact to lose their virginity on prom night. The parents set out to foil the teenagers’ plans.

What Works: Blockers was made by protégés of Judd Apatow; the film’s producers include Evan Goldberg and Seth Roganm it was shot by cinematographer Russ T. Alsobrook, and it stars Apatow’s wife and frequently collaborator Leslie Mann. The influence of Apatow’s sensibility is evident throughout Blockers. It has that same mix of raunchy comedy and sweetness that defined movies like The 40 Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up, and Superbad. Blockers is a successful iteration of the Apatow formula. Like the better films to come out of that brand of comedy it is consistently funny but also good hearted and features a set of likable characters. Blockers is primarily the story of the parents played by Leslie Mann, John Cena, and Ike Barinholtz. Each one of them has a unique relationship with their daughter and Mann and Cena and Barinholtz comically bounce off of each other in a way that’s very funny. Also impressive is the core cast of teenagers played by Kathryn Newton, Gideon Adlon, and Geraldine Viswanathan. Like their parents, each of these young women has a distinct personality. In a lot of Hollywood films, the actors playing teenage characters come across a little too old to be in high school but the young characters of Blockers feel authentic. The filmmakers have a grasp of youth culture and teenage relationships. As a high school movie, Blockers fits within a subgenre of films about prom such as Carrie, American Pie, and Footloose. A lot of those stories are about the cultural myth around prom and how it is supposedly a defining evening of our teenage lives; it’s tied up with sexual awakening and crossing from adolescence to adulthood. Blockers pokes holes in that idealization of prom night while also fulfilling some of what viewers look for in that kind of tale. In that respect, Blockers is also notable for its affirmative take on female sexuality. In this movie, the parents discover that their daughters plan to lose their virginity on prom night and are thrown into a panic. But the movie questions that panic and the way the culture tends to demonize female sexual agency. At the same time, Blockers is self-aware enough to recognize the role of peer pressure and that puts a new twist on the American Pie formula.  

What Doesn’t: Blockers is consistently funny but it doesn’t come up with a lot of memorable comedy. It has its share of gags and witty lines but most of the humor is rather predictable. The bits around drinking, sex, and awkward parenting are good but they aren’t very imaginative or original. Blockers seems more interested in the parents than in the teenagers and so the story of the young people follows prom night clichés that have been in place since John Hughes was making movies in the 1980s. As Blockers follows the Judd Apatow formula, it is also includes some of his flaws. The movie resorts to schmaltz in its ending and there are several clumsy shifts in tone between raunchy comedy and sentimentality that negate the impact of each other.

Bottom Line: Blockers is a satisfying comedy. It struggles to balance the humor with the drama and the jokes aren’t the most inspired but it is consistently funny. It’s also a good hearted film with a smart and progressive take of female sexuality.

Episode: #695 (April 22, 2018)