'Blockers' Review: Yes, the John Cena Butt-Chugging Movie Is Terrific
I know you are eyeing this review skeptically, and I would, too: I’ve seen the trailer. But believe this: Blockers is hysterical, one of the funniest studio comedies in years. It is also substantive and progressive. It hits squarely upon the double standard for women when it comes to sex, and it does so in heartfelt and wildly hilarious ways. It’s also an R-Rated sex comedy that doesn’t hit a single sour note and manages to be fantastically subversive without being offensive. It is terrific.
You probably won’t be surprised to hear that it was directed by a woman, either. Kay Cannon, a writer on 30 Rock, New Girl, Pitch Perfect, turns in an outstanding comedy with dual storylines that mesh together exceptionally well. The first storyline concerns Kayla (Geraldine Viswanathan), Julie (Kathryn Newton), and Sam (Gideon Adlon, Pamela’s daughter) making a pact on prom night to get their V-cards stamped. They do so for different reasons: Julie, because she’s in love with her boyfriend; Kayla, because she wants to get it over with; and Sam, because her friends are doing it and she doesn’t want to feel left out. Each confronts their own hosts of issues in this endeavor, but what’s exceptional — and unusual here — is that the dudes with whom they are trying to have sex are all good people who behave in the ways that boys are supposed to behave — they are not pressuring horndog louts trying to get laid at any cost, and at no point during Blockers do the women lose agency over their decisions.
Meanwhile, the girls’ parents Mitchell (John Cena), Lisa (Leslie Mann), and Hunter (Ike Barinholtz) are attempting to put a stop to the pact, again for their own reasons. Mitchell is an overprotective father, and Lisa fears that if her daughter has sex it will motivate her to go to college across the country and leave her alone. Hunter comes at the situation differently: He thinks the parents should not in any way interfere with the sex pact until he realizes his daughter is gay and he wants to protect her from making a mistake by having sex with a guy.
What the parents eventually have to realize, however, is that they not only have to let their children go but trust that they will make the right decisions for themselves. That they raised them right, and that they have to let their parenting do the work. It’s a hard-fought victory for both the teenagers and the parents, and it includes a few hysterically funny sequences involving drugs, parties, butt-chugging, a car trip, and a memorable sexual role-playing game between Gary Cole and Gina Gershon that will leave moviegoers in stitches.
It’s hard to emphasize just how smart and progressive Blockers is for a studio comedy, and I suspect for most that’s something that will need to be seen to be believed. It’s also hard to single out any one performance because it’s such a perfect ensemble comedy, but I was enamored with Geraldine Viswanathan’s foul-mouthed, hard-drinking-and-drugging role — I don’t think she delivered a line that I didn’t laugh at — and Gideon Adlon’s lesbian storyline, which was just perfect: sweet and crowd-pleasing without resorting to any of the lesbian tropes typical to studio comedies. It is lovely, as are the eventual lessons-learned confrontations between parent and child. It is a phenomenally funny movie, but it works because there’s so much heart coursing through it, and it appeals so well to both parents and teenagers. I laughed. A lot. But as a Dad, it also hurt my heart more than a few times.
I also don’t want to compare Blockers to the Rogen/Apatow movies. This is not a female-led Superbad, and it is not lady American Pie. It is its own unique comedy that just happens to explore female sexuality in ways that male sexuality has been explored for decades. It’s a great parenting comedy. It’s a great high-school sex comedy. It’s a great friendship comedy. It also features teenage women who have candid and honest and funny conversations about sex. “Where was this movie four years ago?” a 22-year-old woman asked the director in the Q & A after the screening. Movies like this didn’t exist in 2014, but I am betting that after Blockers we’re going to be seeing a lot more of them, and of Kay Cannon. The world will be a better place for it.
‘Blockers’ arrives in theaters on April 6th. It screened first at the 2018 SXSW Film Conference.
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