Is it possible to make a raunchy teenage sex comedy today, one that focuses on a diversity of opinions and backgrounds and sexual orientations, one that has fun with the genre, one that notes the double standards while still centering itself around them? Yes, indeed it is, and “Blockers” is the proof of concept.
Directed by Kay Cannon with a script from Brian Kehoe & James Kehoe, “Blockers” (the title treatment regular features a rooster on top of the word, letting you know just what you’re getting into) is the story of three high school seniors who make a pact to lose their virginity on prom night. The teens—Julie (Kathryn Newton), Kayla (Geraldine Viswanathan), and Sam (Gideon Adlon)—all have different reasons for this, but following that perceived American right of passage feel like this is the right night.
The girls’ parents—respectively, Lisa (Leslie Mann), Mitchell (John Cena), and Hunter (Ike Barinholtz)—find out about the pact on the night in question and set off to stop their girls from executing their plan. The film is then at least as much about these adults’ quest to stop the girls as it is about the girls and their plan. In fact, Mann, Cena, and Barinholtz regularly take center stage with the girls themselves pushed to the side.
In “Blockers'” best moments it is a smart look at the way society treats women losing their virginity differently than men. It is able to have these—save Hunter—enlightened adults become over-protective and silly when it comes to their daughters in a way that, the argument goes, they wouldn’t for their sons.
Whether the movie works for those watching will depend on how this discussion hits them. Is the film truly recognizing the double standard and discussing it, or is the film merely making a head fake towards recognition so that it can tell the story it wants to tell. That is, does the film only mention the perceived difference between boys and girls losing their virginity so that it can have these parents go off half-cocked without fear of being reproached?
There are certainly enough moments when it feels as though “Blockers” has little interest in actually working through the ways in which men and women are treated differently to give one pause. However, the movie manages to be good-natured enough that it gets away with it. Additionally, by offering up three very different parents and three very different girls, the movie shows a diversity of opinion and point of view that helps the audience get beyond it.
Moving past this question, it is also important to point out that the movie is truly funny. It includes a great supporting cast and beautifully ramps of the parents’ escapades so that the outlandish moments spring from a logical progression and it finds big laughs along the way. These are not the sort of big laughs that you probably want to watch alongside either your parents or children, but big laughs nonetheless.
“Blockers” also slows down long enough that it can tell the story of these three girls finishing their high school years and struggling with the changes that will bring. With so much time focused on the parents and their own issues in this area, it may not tell that tale with as much depth as it could, but it still gets enough of it out to make it worthwhile.
Wonderfully, different aged audiences will see this movie in an entirely different light. With children of my own, this reviewer focuses on the adult story and how it is possible to want your child to grow up and still fear for every step they take in that direction (it rings quite true). Younger viewers will, most likely, be focused on the importance of the prom, of going off to college, of taking those steps forward towards adulthood. No matter the age though, everyone watching will laugh.
The film succeeds in offering these various points of view not just because the script provides them, but because the actors make them come to life. The six leads all show their ability to both deliver a joke and more dramatic, serious, moments. While the jokes may be over the top, the actors keep their characters grounded in a reality that serves the movie brilliantly.
In short, don’t go see “Blockers” with your parents or children, but you probably do want to go see it.
photo credit: Universal Pictures