Blockers opens this weekend, starring Leslie Mann, John Cena and Ike Barinholtz as the parents of three teenage girls tied in a pact to lose their virginity on prom night. Lisa, Mitchell and Hunter (played by Mann, Cena and Barinholtz, respectively) are concerned as most parents would be, and decide to seek out their daughters to either talk out the decision, talk them out of making it, or simply attempt to reconnect.
What makes Blockers different from your run-of-the-mill teenage sex comedy, is that the puritanical attitudes toward girls having sex, and over the top attempts to prevent mistakes that maybe didn’t turn out to be mistakes after all, all get called out in their turn. And they also get flipped around such that the movie (rightly, I’d argue) says that these attitudes say more about the one carrying them than anyone they direct them toward. In that respect, Blockers is certainly successful.
Unfortunately, outside of a few laugh out loud moments we mostly saw in the trailers, Blockers doesn’t deliver the raunchy, “sex comedy” laughs you’d expect. So, you’re left with a film that in its attempts to be sex positive, held back on the obvious awkwardness and humor to be found in sex itself. John Cena carries most of the comedy here, with a scene of butt-chugging a beer bong and another involving Barinholtz standing in for Gary Cole in a blindfold sex game in another kid’s parents’ house.
It’s a shame that Mann is mostly wasted in Blockers as a stressed out, “don’t make the same mistake” parent, because she’s shown real comedy talent elsewhere. Each of the other parental actors in Blockers gets a gross-out comedy moment, as noted above. But Mann’s closest call is when she’s sneaking out of the room where her daughter is to lose her virginity. While it’s a funny moment in its own way, seeing Mann go as physical as Cena and Barinholtz might have helped the movie more.
The surprising bright spots of the film, however, are the daughters themselves, and with how much inner life they’re written. Kathryn Newton as Julie provides the enthusiastic momentum for the trio to make the pact, and her sweet, romantic-yet-pragmatic views on how the night will go are fun to follow.
Geraldine Viswanathan as Cena’s daughter Kayla is hilariously raunchy and competitive by virtue of the father who raised her, and her energy within the group of friends reminds me of the energy Jason Mantzoukas brought to his episodes on Brooklyn Nine-Nine. She’s that good. Keep an eye out for her, if there’s any justice in Hollywood comedy circles.
Gideon Adlon fills out the trio as Barinholtz’s conflicted (and closeted) daughter Sam, all awkward stares at her crush Angelica and even more awkward overcompensation with prom date Chad. Her interest in women isn’t played for laughs outside of the uncomfortable interactions and doe eyes she has for Angelica, and it’s quite refreshing, and sweet, to see. Adlon plays the part well, and really captures that awkward fumbling a teenager gets around their crush.
If the script had a couple more passes to add more raunch, or if a previous edit had kept more in, I’d have more positive things to say about Blockers. It has some bright spots, namely Cena and Viswanathan. But outside of those two performances, it’s just a decent movie to leave on television when you’re on the couch on a Sunday afternoon.