Blockers is the latest installment in the specific niche of comedy films that employ raunch comedy to make light of the societal rite of passage that is losing your virginity. Typical of the ’80s and ’90s, with 1999’s American Piearguably being the last memorable film to fall into this niche genre, Hollywood has largely moved beyond this premise in mainstream R-rated comedies. While the shift can no doubt be attributed to a change in attitude toward the concept of virginity, an outdated symbol of innocence among young people, it also reflects our evolving views of sex and sexuality. Now, Hollywood has returned to the niche genre with some new ideas. Blockers takes the classic raunch comedy premise of teens losing their virginity and gives it a hilariously entertaining update for modern audiences.
Parents Lisa (Leslie Mann), Mitchell (John Cena), and Hunter (Ike Barinholtz) become friends when they drop their daughters off for their first day of elementary school and the young girls instantly hit it off. While the girls are still friends many years later, their parents have drifted apart. Single mom Lisa mainly focuses on her daughter, Julie (Kathryn Newton), and their relationship, which will change when Julie leaves for college. Mitchell is having a hard time coming to terms with his daughter, Kayla (Geraldine Viswanathan), growing up, while Hunter struggles to make up for his time away from his daughter, Sam (Gideon Adlon).
However, when Lisa and Mitchell learn that their girls have made a pact to lose their virginity on prom night, the two decide they need to prevent their daughters from making a mistake and/or getting hurt. Hunter attempts to stop his former friends, but gets onboard with their plan when he learns Sam is in on the pact and is worried she’ll lose her virginity to her date, Chad (Jimmy Bellinger), in order to stay in the closet and avoid telling her friends she’s gay. Meanwhile, the girls are trying to have a night to remember. Julie hopes to lose her virginity to her boyfriend Austin (Graham Phillips), Kayla wants to lose her virginity to her lab partner/prom date Connor (Miles Robbins), and Sam wrestles with whether she’s sure she’s gay. With the girls and their parents having conflicting goals, it’s unclear whether Lisa, Mitchell, and Hunter will be successful “blockers” of their daughters’ plans
Blockers smartly mines the generational divide between the parents and the girls not only for comedy, but for a surprisingly incisive look at their different attitudes toward virginity and sex. The parents and their daughters symbolize the differences between the generation that came of age during the popular comedies of the ’80s and ’90s and the generation that is coming of age now. Whereas the parents have outdated views of sex, ones perpetuated by those classic comedies that often focused on boys’ experiences and left little to no room for thoughtful discussion of sexuality, the girls are often shown to give more thought to what they want from their first sexual experiences. Not to mention, the girls in Blockers have much more sexual agency than female characters in past films that centered on the boys’ experiences, which is where the main conflict between the parents and their daughters arises.
Further, Blockers leaves room for both the parents and their daughters to confront and explore the next steps in their lives thoughtfully. While Julie, Kayla and Sam are contemplating not only how to explore their own sexuality, they’re also dealing with the shadow of graduation and its inevitable effect on their friendship. Meanwhile, Lisa, Mitchell, and Hunter are struggling with how much they need to let go of control over their daughters and trust that they’ve raised their children well. These conflicts between the friends, the daughters and parents, as well as each individual character gives the film a depth that is both necessary in modern culture and takes Blockers a step beyond its predecessors in this niche comedy genre
But, of course, Blockers is also a hilarious comedy. With a script by Black List writers Brian and Jim Kehoe, Blockers is the directorial debut of Kay Cannon, who has plenty of experience working on female-driven comedies. Cannon has producing and writing credits on TV series 30 Rock, New Girl and Girlboss, as well as the Pitch Perfectmovie franchise. Between the script and directing on Blockers, the movie offers something for every sense of humor, from raunchy comedy that includes Cena butt chugging 40 oz of beer to quotable one-liners. Conversely, that range of comedy means there will undoubtedly be something in Blockers that misses for each viewer, but the movie is quick to move on. Blockers also largely manages to balance its comedy with the more emotional moments of the story, though some dramatic scenes are unfortunately undercut by unnecessary jokes – as if the script sometimes shies away from going too deep.
For their parts, the core adult cast of Cena, Mann, and Barinholtz work exceptionally well as a trio, as well as on their own. Both Mann and Barinholtz are veterans of the comedy genre, and they bring their typical brand of humor to the film, while Cena has been making a name for himself in comedy in recent years. After a standout supporting turn in Trainwreck and a handful of other comedies, Blockers marks Cena’s first starring comedic role and he proves adept at holding his own. Meanwhile, the younger stars – Newton, Viswanathan, and Adlon – also work well off each other in addition to their parental counterparts. Plus, Blockers is rounded out by an exceptional supporting cast that includes June Diane Raphael as Hunter’s ex-wife Brenda, Hannibal Buress as Brenda’s new husband, Sarayu Blue as Mitchell’s wife Marcie, as well as Gary Cole and Gina Gershon as Austin’s parents.
In the end, Blockers offers a wonderfully modern take on the premise of teenagers losing their virginity that is entertaining for both younger and older generations. With an updated view on sex and sexuality, Blockers actually mines the differences between the generations for a great deal of comedy, but not in a way that disparages either generation. It also features a surprisingly heartfelt story about the strength of relationships between parents and their kids as well as between friends – no matter their age. Altogether, Blockers is a raunch comedy for a new age, with plenty of hilarity and emotion to win over viewers of all ages (or, at least, all ages able to catch the R-rated comedy).
Blockers is now playing in U.S. theaters nationwide. It runs 102 minutes and is rated R for crude and sexual content, and language throughout, drug content, teen partying, and some graphic nudity.
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