A comedy about parents trying to stop their teenage daughters from having sex? There’s so much that could have gone wrong with “Blockers,” and yet, it defies expectations. Hilarious, of course, but also surprisingly sweet, the film mines its premise for humor but never forgets that the concerns here are ridiculous. In more than one scene, the absurdity of boys being encouraged to get laid on prom night while girls somehow need to be protected from it is called to the carpet. It’s to the credit of this movie that you’re able to laugh at the jokes while always knowing that the heart of “Blockers” is in the right place. Having the film always acknowledge how bad the idea these parents have is crucial to its success.
Very much in the “Neighbors” vibe, “Blockers” is further evidence that John Cena is comedy gold. His deadpan nature, intense wholesomeness, and physical prowess help him stand out. He brings something unique to this sort of role. Far more apt at comedy than action, he’s certainly found a niche. Take the vibe from his supporting turn in “Trainwreck” and expand it to co-lead status. That’s what we have here, and it is a humorous delight.
As soon as their daughters became friends on the first day of school, Lisa (Leslie Mann), Mitchell (Cena), and Hunter (Ike Barinholtz) were bonded. Their girls, Julie (Kathryn Newton), Kayla (Geraldine Viswanathan), and Sam (Gideon Adlon), remained close all throughout school. The three adults have drifted though, as graduation approaches. With prom that evening, Lisa throws a party for Julie, which brings the parents back together. Initially unaware, they also end up learning that their daughters are planning to lose their virginity that night. Julie has a long-term boyfriend she’s ready to sleep with. Kayla wants in on the action, so she picks a random dude to take to prom and have her way with. As for Sam, she’s almost positive she’s into girls but doesn’t want to be left out, so she takes her practically platonic boyfriend along for the ride too.
Once the adults catch wind of this, Lisa and Mitchell become determined to stop it, even as Hunter points out the double standard. Always one step behind the girls, the trio of parental units must also deal with their related issues that have popped up. Lisa is terrified of losing Julie when she goes to college. Mitchell is overprotective of Kayla and treats her more like a son than a daughter. Then, there’s Hunter, who suspects Sam is a lesbian but has been virtually cut out of her life, so there’s no support he can give. It all comes together in a wild prom night party that’s hilarious, but also way more heartfelt than you might expect.
The genius of the casting in “Blockers” is that the adult leads all have such distinct comedy skills. Everything said about John Cena above holds true, but don’t sleep on Leslie Mann. Long an underrated actress, this is a three-dimensional role that lets her soar. Beyond her line deliveries, there’s a third act instance of physical comedy that tickles your funny bone in the perfect way. Cena and Mann are the characters you enjoy following, though they both bounce well off of Ike Barinholtz. He can be annoying, but Barinholtz’s character fits here. Initially off-putting, he gets a believable arc that sands off some of his rougher edges. As a trio, they mesh well together.
As for the younger ladies, they easily could have anchored a “Superbad” type film of their own. Kathryn Newton is your more “traditional” girl, though with a wicked deadpan sense of humor. Geraldine Viswanathan is a gem as the girl down for it all. Her reactions to some of Cena’s lines early on are priceless. Then there’s Gideon Adlon, who makes a potentially iffy subplot work nicely due to her offbeat earnestness. Supporting players here also include the likes of Jimmy Bellinger, Sarayu Blue, Graham Phillips, Miles Robbins, and Romana Young, among others.
Director Kay Cannon brings a welcome woman’s touch to the genre. Together with writers Brian Kehoe and Jim Kehoe, Cannon allows the female characters to make informed decisions about sex. Go figure, they have agency and seem unlikely to regret any of the choices they come to. At the same time, the young male characters aren’t all just sex-crazed, while the adults are seen as rightly ridiculous. Between the jokes and the woke nature of the script, a lot goes right here. As for the direction, Cannon keeps things smooth and simple. The jokes and the cast’s delivery of said jokes take priority.
If you like to laugh, “Blockers” will do the trick. It’s dirty, it’s funny, it has heart. This is what you want out of a top-notch R rated comedy. There aren’t any immediately iconic lines or scenes, and that keeps this from being epic, but this is still quite a good movie. Studio comedies can often be hit or miss, but this is a success. The funniest film of 2018 so far, this is well worth checking out. Comedy fans are in for a low key treat!