Updated: Feb 6, 2020
Like anybody else, I see lots of advertising for movies. I try not to judge something before I see it, but sometimes, amid the barrage of commercials and trailers, it is difficult and I end up developing an opinion about something before it is even released. Such was the case with Blockers, a raunchy comedy about three adults trying to prevent their daughters from losing their virginity on prom night. The trailers made it look stupid, loud and vulgar for the sake of being vulgar. I still tried to go into it with an open mind, though I had very low expectations. So imagine my surprise when I found myself laughing. A Lot! As it turns out, Blockers is funnier, smarter and sweeter than it looks.
The first important thing Blockers got right is its adult leads. Leslie Mann, Ike Barinholtz and John Cena are all very funny as the concerned, and very insecure, parents. Mann has shown her comedic skill in several of the films produced by her husband, Judd Apatow (such as The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up and Funny People), and Barinholtz has been very funny in things like Snatched and The Mindy Project. But the real surprise is wrestler/actor Cena. He did some good work in small roles in Trainwreck and Sisters, but here he is asked to help carry more of the load and he never seems out of place. All three of them have been helped tremendously by the screenplay, by Brian and Jim Kehoe, which allows their characters to be deeper than smothering mom, man-child and clueless dad. They are each their own unique person, which makes the jokes funnier.
However, if it was just about three adults stopping their teenage children from having sex, it could have been pretty icky (to be fair, there are a couple of unfortunate moments dealing directly with the premise). But the filmmakers made the great decision to give the three girls their own distinct personalities. They did not just establish the relationships between the kids and their parents, they also established the girls’ friendship. Since it is clear who they are, what they are doing and why, their scenes have real meaning. It helps that the three actresses, Kathryn Newton, Geraldine Viswanathan and Gideon Adlon, are all funny in this movie and are allowed to be more than the object of the adults’ obsessions. Giving them agency stops the story from becoming uncomfortable and makes the craziness everyone gets up to even funnier.
Blockers (95 minutes, not including the end credits) is helped most of all by its screenplay, which is smarter and more thoughtful than it first appears. It would have been easy to just string together a bunch of sex jokes and call it a day. But they did not settle for that, even though that is exactly what the setup would make you expect. Do not get me wrong, there are a lot of sex jokes. But making the teenage girls their own people instead of just using them as plot devices was an excellent decision that lends the movie a purpose. This is the rare raunchy comedy that ends with sentiment that is actually earned.
Though not every joke in Blockers lands, it gets enough comic momentum from the good jokes to carry it past a few misguided ideas. They also created six likable characters, all well played, to overcome a potentially problematic concept. By making this movie as much about the girls’ coming of age as it is about the parents struggle to let go, it adds depth usually lacking from movies of this type. There have been funnier movies in recent years, but that inclusivity makes it stand out. I am very glad to have been wrong about this one.
3½ out of 5
Leslie Mann as Lisa
John Cena as Mitchell
Ike Barinholtz as Hunter
Kathryn Newton as Julie
Geraldine Viswanathan as Kayla
Gideon Adlon as Sam
Directed by Kay Cannon
Written by Brian Kehoe and Jim Kehoe