Blockers offers a new angle on the well-worn coming of age story about teenagers losing their virginity, exploring it from the parent’s perspective, with hilarious and at times ridiculous results.
When three parents inadvertently discover their respective daughters’ pact to lose their virginity on prom night, it sets in motion a hilarious set of events as they endeavour to stop their plans, whatever it takes. The pact arises when Julie (Kathryn Newton) tells her two closest friends that she has chosen prom as the night to lose her virginity to her long-term boyfriend, Austin (Graham Phillips). Adventurous Kayla (Geraldine Viswanathan) decides that she wants to make this a shared experience and Sam (Gideon Adlon), who is battling with issues about her sexuality, elects that this will be a good way to confront them.
The movie begins with three emotional parents dealing with their daughters’ first day of school. Lisa (Leslie Mann), Mitchell (John Cena) and Hunter (Ike Barinholtz) watch as the girls meet and they see the beginning of a blossoming friendship. Father to one of the girls, Hunter, jokes that this means that the three of them will become friends now too, by association, and they head off for a beer together. Years later and it is now the final year of their children’s school career and while the girls have remained firm friends, their parents have drifted apart.
Single-mother Lisa, is now struggling to accept the upcoming changes in her daughter Julie’s life as she clings to their routines a bit too tightly, striving to be to her best friend rather than her mother. Mitchell has moulded his daughter Kayla into a sport-driven athlete and battles to see her as a young lady with potential suitors. Divorced and largely absent dad, Hunter, makes a dramatic attempt to re-connect with his daughter Sam, by hiring a limousine and surprising her at the pre-prom drinks with her friends and parents.
As the trio head off to prom, the three re-united parents discover the planned ‘SexPact’ through a series of amusing, suggestive emojis in a group chat left open on Julie’s laptop. Convinced their children are making a disastrous, life altering decision, the over-protective parents quickly team up to ensure that they stop their children following through with their plan. Chasing after them takes the trio from prom to an alcohol and drug infused house party where their attempts to blend in, result in Mitchell accepting a beer butt-chugging challenge with hilarious results. The parent’s actions continue to become more amusing and extreme, as they end up at the hotel after party, where their desperate attempts to intercept their daughters’ plans reveal that the real issue is their own struggle to deal with their children’s inevitable adulthood.
First time director, Kay Cannon, was an award-winning writer and producer from 30 Rock and more recently she wrote the screenplay for all three films in the Pitch Perfect franchise. The film certainly benefits from a female input as it seeks to challenge the double standards around boys and girls losing their virginity. Sex and experimentation are shown as a natural part of the transition to adulthood, questioning the real motive behind the parent’s desperate attempts to stop this.
Brian and Jim Kehoe have provided an amusing script with dialogue that feels natural and flows easily from both the parents and children. The banter is witty and fast with all of the main characters well fleshed out, with their own issues and journeys to follow. There is a sense of normalcy in the film’s setting and look, that heightens the ridiculous nature of some of the situations that the parents find themselves in.
The children are well portrayed as relatively normal; unsure and insecure while constantly trying to act older than they are. What is refreshing is how all three teenagers are portrayed as intelligent, independent girls who while aware of the social pressures around growing-up, aren’t helpless victims in need of rescue but able to make their own decisions.
At times though, Blockers struggles with its sense of identity, switching from a gross-out comedy to a family-oriented coming of age story with a feminist message. One minute you are watching a limousine being decorated with vomit, and the next you are thrust into the emotional struggle of a parent, who is grappling with their child navigating life’s milestones independently. The film’s message is repeated on too many occasions and the heartfelt message can at times feel a little heavy-handed.
Cannon has assembled a strong cast and receives solid performances from both her newer and established actors. Mann plays the role of Lisa with a mixture of desperation and fear that displays her usual comedic excellence. Cena is entertaining as the tough-guy who is emotionally vulnerable and easily reduced to tears. Barinholtz rounds out the trio, as the quirky, misunderstood and frequently inappropriate member of the team. Cannon allows each of these actors to play to their strengths and their different comedy styles work well together and feel organic.
Blockers is a slightly unbalanced mix of American Pie-style teen comedy intermixed with a mid-life crisis, reminiscent of This is 40 (2012), although chances are that you will be laughing too much to really care.
The title is short for “Cock Blockers”. Presumably, it was not called Cock Blockers because a title that vulgar would be difficult to advertise. However, a rooster (or cock) is shown before the word “Blockers” to hint at the full title.