A film review by Craig J. Koban April 16, 2018

BLOCKERS jjj
 

2018, R, 102 mins.

 

Leslie Mann as Lisa  /  Ike Barinholtz as Hunter  /  John Cena as Mitchell  /  Kathryn Newton as Julie  /  Geraldine Viswanathan as Kayla  /  Gideon Adlon as Sam

Directed by Kay Cannon  /  Written by Brian Kehoe and Jim Kehoe

 

 

 

 

 

Based on the one trailer that I saw for BLOCKERS beforehand, I had absolutely zero desire to screen this film.  

On a pure surface level, this teen sex comedy delves into material that's been so overdone and has become pretty stale for the genre over the years - a group of ultra horny high school students desperately try to become adults and lose their virginity during prom night.  There's a very decided been-there, done-that formula to BLOCKERS, on top of the fact that it's just as guilty as piling on the puerile gross out gags that seem to be a proverbial dime a dozen for these types of films over the years.  We get bodily fluid and function humor involving graphic nudity, public drunkenness, explosive diarrhea, and mass puking (not in that order)...and so on and so on.  Superficially, BLOCKERS hardly re-invents the big screen comedic wheel. 

However, director Kay Cannon (making her feature film debut) has an awful lot more shrewd tricks up her sleeve to help her film segregate itself well apart from an obviously crowed pack.  So many - far too many to name in one sentence - teen sex comedies are ostensibly told from the male perspective while on their journeys to break their cherries, whereas BLOCKERS, rather refreshingly, is told from the adolescent female perspective and, in turn, imparts a considerable amount of understanding and compassion for its young characters.  I can't recall, off of the top of my head, another comedy like this that showed the high school girls as the sexual aggressors in an effort to get laid, and it's the uniqueness of prerogative that makes BLOCKERS feel more enlightened and progressive than most.  Beyond that, the film also contains abundant truths about the social awkwardness of maturing and how parents have a tremendous difficulty in allowing their kids to grow up.  And yes, Cannon's film has ample crudeness permeated throughout, but it marries that raunch with a sweet tempered handling of its characters that makes them relatable, which is a tough dichotomy to pull off. 

 

 

The sex starved teens in question are Julie (Kathryn Newton) and her BFFs in Sam (Gideon Adlon)  and Kayla (Geraldine Viswanathan), all of whom decide - pretty spontaneously and without much thought - that the time is right on prom night to lose their virginity, so they all make a pact to get the deed done by the end of the evening.  Julie already knows that she'll most likely bed her boyfriend Austin (Graham Phillips), whereas Kayla - in a hilariously impromptu moment - literally decides to nail the first boy she randomly points at in the school cafeteria, Connor (Miles Robbins).  Sam, who's pretty firmly established early on as a closet lesbian, meekly decides that she's go to the prom with the tubby and somewhat obnoxious Chad (Jimmy Bellinger), although the thought of having intercourse with him has little to no appeal.  Still, a girl pact is a girl pact, so Sam bolsters up the strength to soldier on, every though she'd much rather have a bedroom rendezvous with her crush, Angelica (Ramona Young). 

Things get extremely complicated for the trio of girls when their respective parents find out of their extracurricular sextivities (via an open laptop that has their text conversations appearing, which the hapless parents try to hysterically decode the emoji heavy dialogue).  Julie's mom, Lisa (an on-point Leslie Mann), is the classic smothering and overprotective helicopter mom that can't bare the thought of letting her daughter out of her sight for one minute, let alone allowing her to get lucky on prom night.  Kayla's dad is the hulkingly large, but emotionally soft centered Mitchell (John Cena, the film's secret comedic weapon), who looks strong enough to pick up any boy that wants to touch his daughter and hurtle him into the stratosphere.  Sam's largely absentee loser father is Hunter (played with infectious sleaziness by Ike Barinholtz), who oddly seems the most healthily open minded of the parents in wanting to let his daughter have sex for the first time on her terms...and with a fellow gay partner (he knows her secret), but when he realizes that she's going to debase herself with an unsavory boy that sends him and the two other parents on a night long mission to - ahem! - "cockblock those mother fuckers!" (which is the film's title, by the way, with a rooster symbol submitted in place of one clearly offensive word that would not look good on billboard advertising). 

There is a very valid argument to be made that BLOCKERS is really about the parents, which is true to a degree, seeing as much of the laugh out loud humor on display (and this movie is very funny) is at the expense of these pathetically clueless adults trying to infiltrate their way into their daughters' prom night lives to ensure that they, rather ironically, don't embarrass and debase themselves.  The night sees Lisa, Mitchell, and Hunter trek to the prom at the school that later spills over to a hotel and house party, the latter of which shows the increasingly desperate Mitchell - in a brave effort to fit and blend in with the other teens as to not break his cover as a parent - chug massive quantities of beer...via a body cavity that is at the polar opposite end of his mouth.  This nasty little moment demonstrates (a) Cena's commendable willingness to throw vanity out the door and do anything to secure a laugh and (b) just how far these guardians will go to prevent what they feel is a disastrous decision for their daughters.  It also ends with one of the funniest lines I've heard in a comedy in a long time from Mitchell, during which time Hunter questions his dedication to their cause: "Hey, I'm an team player!  I just chugged a 40 through my asshole!" 

BLOCKERS has other moments of scatological shenanigans sprinkled throughout (to its detriment, there are times when it does lose a bit of sight on the core thrust of its story in an effort to one up each new bawdy moment to the next shocking extreme), but Cannon's film is smarter and more thoughtful than most in the sense that it credibly navigates the whirlwind of emotions that both its teen and adult characters go through in their relationships with one another.  There are individual moments between these respective characters that feel heartfelt and real, and Cannon especially seems to really understand how young girls, for example, talk and interact with one another.  BLOCKERS, unlike so many other contemporary comedies, isn't solely invested in being tastelessly vulgar (even though it earns its R rating).  It authentically deals with nagging parental worry and how that can be a destructive force as well as showing its teens girls not as victims and/or trophies of the sexual pursuits of boys.  This is driven home in a wonderfully meta scene in the film where Kayla's sharp witted and liberal minded mother (Sarayu Blue) gives an acid tongued speech about the unequal sexual politics that exists between boys and girls: When boys lose their virginity it's a proud and manly accomplishment, but when girls do they're either deemed as sluts or used props to facilitate the boy's needs.   BLOCKERS makes a socially conscious effort to go against the gender grain that has been so firmly entrenched by the male dominated films that have come before it. 

Of course, BLOCKERS is still a comedy that has jokes about dicks, projectile vomit, and, let's not forget, "ass chugging."  Even with the most welcoming gender swapping of this browbeaten genre, the film proves that even comedies with girls substituted in for boys are just as capable of being predictably and sometimes numbingly crass.  Yet, Cannon, as mentioned, isn't strictly compelled in making another gross out comedy, but rather one that treats all of its characters with respect and compassion and democratically allows for us to understand what makes them all tick.  BLOCKERS is reliably and steadily amusing throughout, no doubt, but it also has something genuine to say about the pains of young adults becoming adults and the plaguing anxieties of parents that can't seem to let go.  It's a very rare thing to see a high school teen sex comedy that's done with reasonable amounts of intelligence and empathy...and all while being able to shoehorn in moments involving John Cena getting a tube and funnel shoved up his derrière. 

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