REVIEW — “Blockers”
The teen sex-comedy is a sub-genre that feels both tired and timeless. From Jason Biggs getting intimate with a pie in 1999’s American Pie to ‘McLovin’ trying to buy beers for a party in 2006’s Superbad – we’ve exhausted the premise of friends trying to lose their virginity, but have constantly found new ways to escalate the raunchiness as well as find ways to speak to each respective generation that these films are made for. Right when I thought that this sub-genre was as gone as the Western, director Kay Cannon brings us Blockers, a film that serves as a resounding reminder of how much of a difference the perspective behind the camera can mean for the execution of a premise. We’ve seen awkward, nerdy guys hook-up with the girls of their dreams countless times in films like this before. What makes Blockers such an interesting breath of fresh air is that it feels rare to have a coming-of-age comedy that has a genuine female presence behind the camera and a progressive outlook on young women exploring their sexuality. There is undeniably a version of this film that would’ve been mean-spirited and without substance, but Kay Cannon delivers a gross-out comedy full of the hilarious raunch that you would expect, but a genuine heart at its core that you might not.
The film opens with Lisa (Leslie Mann), Mitchell (John Cena), and Hunter (Ike Barinholtz) as they drop off their kids on their first day of school. The three girls quickly form a bond and become inseparable friends. Cut to their senior year of High School and we find them all grown up. Hunter’s daughter Sam (Gideon Adlon), Lisa’s daughter Julie (Kathryn Newton) and Mitchell’s daughter Kayla (Geraldine Viswanathan) are all excited to go to prom and spend one last big night together before going to College. Once Julie reveals that she plans on losing her virginity with her boyfriend after prom, the three make a pact to all lose their virginity on the same night. Lisa finds out about this rather quickly and recruits Mitchell and Hunter to help her stop this from happening, as they believe it would be a terrible idea that the girls aren’t thinking through. The premise serves as a perfect platform for both the kids and their parents to go on absolutely crazy adventures throughout the night.
At one point in the film, Kayla asks “why is sex even bad?” – a question that is seemingly so simple yet proves to be a loaded one for three confident, complex girls. One of the biggest themes of the film is the double standard that is found when it comes to losing your virginity – that for men it is something to be celebrated and a sign of manhood, but for women it is somehow a sign of loss of innocence. It also tackles the idea of seemingly progressive parents being presented with the opportunity to prevent their kids from having sex – the idea that they are pro-choice until they realize that their children are independent and actually beginning to make their own choices. This film is as much of a journey for the three girls as it is for their parents coming to terms with their kids growing up. The balance of screen time from the kids to the adults is nearly perfect, and neither story is less entertaining or funny than the other. While I’m making this seem like a film full of politics and deep themes, my love for this also simply stems from the fact that it is just genuinely hilarious. It is the funniest film I’ve seen since 2014’s Neighbors, and I forgot how good it feels to be both exhausted by laughter by the end of a comedy as well as moved by the emotion. It leaves you on a cinematic-high that I just can’t articulate.
As far as the teen-sex comedy sub-genre goes, I’d rank this slightly under Superbad in terms of laughs but nicely above American Pie in terms of breaking down new barriers for teenage sexuality being presented in film. Kay Cannon has delivered something truly special with this one – a cinematic experience that portrays the complexities of strong female characters and layered LGBTQ characters, as well as featuring John Cena chugging a beer up his butt. How much more versatile can a film get? Even with the butt-chugging, I can’t predict the future and say that this will be a smash-hit and become an instant classic for audiences. What I can say is that it damn’ well deserves all the success that it can possibly get. I laughed the entire time, got attached to all of the characters, and was surprisingly moved by the end of it. Blockers won’t go down with the greats of all time, but it should serve as a landmark film that dared to openly tackle so many issues in such hysterical and natural ways. I’m aware that it’s only April, but I have a legitimately hard time believing that I’ll see another comedy this year that checks off all the boxes of satisfaction and leaves me feeling as happy as this one did. It’s films like these that remind me why I love comedy, and how it can be used as a tool to break down barriers. 4.5/5.