Blockers could have gone horribly wrong. The premise of parents trying to stop their teenage daughters from having sex could have been patriarchal, sex-shaming, and antiquated. Instead, in the hands of director Kay Cannon, Blockers ends up as what will likely be one of the best comedies of 2018. Rather than looking at sex itself as evil, the parents trying to stop their kids is standing in not for a loss of “innocence”, but a loss of the parent-child bond that will be forever changed when the kids go off to college. However, a movie about parents trying to stop their kids from going to college would be bizarre, and it’s funnier to watch parents on a wild night out, especially when everyone in the cast is painfully fully.
Lisa (Leslie Mann), Mitchell (John Cena), and Hunter (Ike Barinholtz) are about to send their daughters off to college, but before that happens, it’s prom night, and the parents are relatively cool about it until they learn that their daughters Julie (Kathryn Newton), Kayla (Geraldine Viswanathan), and Sam (Gideon Adlon), respectively, have formed a sex pact to lose their virginity. Lisa transfers her anxiety about Julie going to UCLA instead of the close-by University of Chicago; Mitchell, the most provincial of the trio, doesn’t want to see Kayla lose her virginity to the smirking Connor (Miles Robbins); and Hunter is trying to repair the bond with Sam after he cheated on her mother and fell out of his family’s life.
That’s some fairly heavy drama that you know is going to come back into play, but the movie always puts the comedy first for everyone, and it has raunchy, R-rated jokes at their finest. While we expect seasoned comic actors like Mann and Barinholtz to shine, there isn’t a weak link in the cast. Cena is an absolute gift, combining his physicality with an aw-shucks gentility that’s totally winsome. Furthermore, the three actresses playing the daughters are terrific. They all show comic chops far beyond their years, especially Viswanathan whose timing is magnificent.
None of the comic situations should be spoiled, but it’s also a movie that’s tough to spoil because even if you know the jokes, you can feel all the throwaway lines and gags that are going to make Blockers a movie worth revisiting (Hannibal Buress, who plays Sam’s stepfather, has a story that I’m still chuckling about). It’s also wonderful just watching the cast bounce off each other; it’s a movie that has strong situations, but the cast is what makes it shine and Cannon trusts her actors to always manage the balance of comedy while never losing sight of the emotional center to the characters.
The movie is also commendable for rarely being preachy. There’s one scene where a supporting character serves as a bit of a mouthpiece for the subtext of the film, and it’s kind of unnecessary. It’s a way to voice what the rest of the movie is already saying. Yes, if this were a movie about boys losing their virginity, the tone would be different (you’d have American Pie), but Blockers goes out of its way to make sure that this isn’t about “protecting” girls as much as it’s about the baggage of the parents who don’t want to see their kids grow up. It’s not a movie about how sex is evil; it’s a movie about how it’s hard to let your kids go out without supervision.
That heart is what makes Blockers stand out, and it’s what makes the rest of the movie work. Even if all the other comic scenes were still in place, they would be soured by the patriarchal morality that young women just shouldn’t have sex on their prom night. Instead, Blockers trusts its audience and trusts its characters to have more depth, and that gamble pays off because then we can just enjoy the rest of the movie. And there’s so much to enjoy with Blockers, none of which I’ll spoil here. It’s a movie that had me howling with laughter from start to finish, and it sets a high bar for other comedies this year.