Blockers | Kay Cannon | April 6, 2018
With Blockers, director Kay Cannon (best known as the writer of the Pitch Perfect trilogy, as well as the creator and writer of the show Girlboss) uses the familiar premise of a raunchy sex comedy and swaps some various roles around to suit modern times.
When it comes to the raunchy sex comedy genre, there’s a slate of films throughout the years that set the tone for the crop of films that will follow it in the ensuing years. Films like Porky’s, Animal House, American Pie, and Superbad each tapped into a different level of the horny adolescent mind of a generation of teenagers. But it should come as no surprise that these movies catered more directly to teenage boys. While Blockers does have its fair share of immature raunchiness to go along with these previously mentioned titles, what sets it apart is that it offers a bit of a shared perspective that shines some hypocrisy on how boys losing their virginity is celebrated while female sexuality is something taboo and guarded, as if they’re in need of protection.
Cannon and writers Brian and Jim Kehoe (along with executive producing credits from the duo of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg) say the hell with that, giving us a comedy with some really batshit crazy scenarios that are also grounded with more heartfelt moments that shine some light on society’s tendency to treat the sexual experience of boys and girls with vastly different perspectives.
Lisa (Leslie Mann), Mitchell (John Cena), and Hunter (Ike Barinholtz) meet after sending off their daughters to elementary school, now forced to form a bond through the newfound connection of their children. We catch up with the girls a little over a decade later, on the verge of womanhood, prom, and graduation. The three girls, Julie (Kathryn Newton, coming off of Lady Bird and Three Billboards), Kayla (Geraldine Viswanathan), and Sam (Gideon Adlon) make a pact to lose their virginity on prom night, as Julie’s ready to lose her virginity to Austin (Graham Phillips), her boyfriend of six months.
Lisa and Mitchell are both overbearing and overprotective parents, while Hunter is a bit more of a wildcard, struggling to re-connect with his daughter after the split from his wife (June Diane Raphael). While their children have become closer, their parents haven’t remained as close over the years. They are brought together after accidentally stumbling on Julie’s laptop and learning of their sex pact, resulting in one of the funniest scenes of the film. They’re soon scrambling to find a way to prevent their little girls from making an irrational decision that they assume is being forced upon them by their male dates.
Cannon allows all of her three adult leads to play to their strengths. Mann is perfectly suited for the uptight and worrywart mother who is bottling up her anxiety. Cena is a big body with the heart of a teddy bear who is constantly fighting back tears when it comes to seeing his little girl grow up. And then there is Barinholtz, perfectly game as the off-the-rails character with no filter and who the parents can’t shake as much as they’d like to. Soon, they’re forced to spend a night together all in the name of keeping their daughters’ V-Cards intact.
There’s no shortage of hijinks or whacked out situations that bring in the laughs in Blockers. How much you’ll laugh depends on your appreciation of crude humor. While the kids are also having their fair share of debauchery during prom, it’s the parents who are really given the more insane scenarios that the script goes all in on (the impact and influence of Neighbors is felt). While some of them land like gangbusters, there are a few that may overplay their hand a bit (the already infamous Cena butt-chugging sequence, for one). There’s some tonal inconsistency here and there, in large part to some uneven editing and transitions, but there’s enough of a constant rush of laughs to keep the momentum going.
It was fun to see the parents act even more childish than their children, and it’s probably elevated, thanks to the strange yet infectious chemistry shared between Mann, Cena, and Barinholtz. It helps that the younger trio of Newton, Viswanathan, and Adlon are able to hold their own as well, proving that they have a bright future ahead of them. While their roles are more like extended cameos, there’s some hilarious work from both Gary Cole and Gina Gershon as two parents who find unusual ways to keep their sex life fresh.
While some will be frustrated by the juvenile levels of raunch, what separated Blockers from other comedies of this sort was the way it handled the double standard that society holds with boys’ and girls’ sexual identities, reversing the roles and avoiding the tropes of the genre that one would come to expect. The girls are able to be themselves, whether that’s sealing the deal with your high school crush, wanting just to casually have sex for the first time with your lab partner, or figuring out just what exactly your sexual preference is. They have agency over their sexual decisions; it isn’t up to their dates or even their parents to decide what they get to do with their bodies, or when they do it. The film also treats the male love interests with the same amount of respect and thankfully doesn’t resort to predictable story beats or tropes that you may be expecting them to touch upon.
Sure, in the end, things may end up a bit too tidy in Blockers and the tone may not be as balanced as well as it could have, but it was welcome to see these ideas embraced by a raunchy comedy in such a warm heartfelt fashion, with much credit coming from Cannon’s touch. What’s most rewarding is how what seemed to be a regressive idea on the surface ends up being surprisingly progressive, possibly (and hopefully) paving the way for many more comedies to follow suit in the years to come.