Film in review: “Blockers”


The Winonan’s film reporter rates “The Queen’s Gambit” 3/5 stars.

Blake Gasner, Features Reporter

From “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” to “American Pie” to “Superbad,” the teen sex comedy has been a steady presence in movie theaters for years. Although definitely vibrant and full of life in the early years of its production cycle, this genre of raunchy comedy and fiery teenage hormones has been on the decline in recent years. Besides “Easy A” and “21 Jump Street,” the last decade has been slowly-but-surely experiencing the extinction of these films as the general comedic taste of the public grows adjusted to this once radical form of comedy. This is why the 2018 Kay Cannon-directed comedy “Blockers” is a surprising resurrection of the genre. It takes the premise of hormone driven teenagers on a campaign to lose their virginity and swaps out the stereotypical male perspective for that of females while also offering up an unexpected amount of heart and wisdom.

The film stars Leslie Mann, Ike Barinholtz and John Cena as the three parents who undertake the awkwardly complicated task of “blocking” their daughters off from going through with a sex pact, in which they all agree to lose their virginities on prom night. The three daughters are played by the young and talented Kathryn Newton, Geraldine Viswanathan and Gideon Aldon, who all, with very minimal prior filmography, exhibit breakout performances. Viswanathan especially, as the daughter of Cena, somehow rises to and matches the level of his explosively silly on-screen presence. The film finds some real comedic moments, as well as some authentic heart, in each of these trios’ journeys throughout the evening, as they briefly cross paths and accidentally shake the parents off into more extremely cringe-inducing and stressful situations.

“Blockers” features real promise from director Cameron who, in her feature film directorial debut, orchestrates some violently gut busting moments of laughter. In these moments, Cena steals the show. Years in the back-breaking show business of professional wrestling appear to have nourished his abilities as a performer and entertainer in similar ways to the modern-day kingpin of the box office, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Whether it be his inflated, overprotective interactions with his daughter’s stoner-hipster prom date, Connor (Miles Robbins), or his antics at the various parties they investigate in search of their daughters, Cena steals the show scene after scene in the first live-action, leading role of his blossoming acting career.

Although Cena and the cast all deliver genuine laughs, the film’s comedy is strangled out through an overabundance of dull-landing and forced humor interspersed throughout. Some of the script feels as though it’s written by a virtuoso of crowd cackling humor and other parts of it feel like it’s the work of an amateur. There were many moments stuffed to the ceiling with comic potential which, in the end, flailed and fell to the ground because the film opted to shrug past them instead for a new gag. This unfocused means of storytelling is what distinguishes “Blockers” from another delightfully surprising comedy from earlier this year, “Game Night.” After several stints directing and writing wide release comedic films over the past several years, it seems collaborative directors John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein have already developed the rare ability to build jokes off one another, a quality exemplified in their impressively clever script for “Game Night.” Cameron’s directorial debut here in “Blockers” falls short of these results, but still holds exciting promise going forward as she continues to master her craft.

Ultimately however, despite its overabundance of dull humor, “Blockers” succeeds in the teen sex comedy drama like few films in recent years have. A fresh new cast of talent, alongside some much-needed heart (a quality desperately lacking in a genre today which is drowning in unnecessarily cynical and mean spirited humor) pull this film out of the wastelands that often plague raunchy comedies and instead offer up a refreshing film about growing up, both as a kid and a parent.

Consensus: If in the mood for a comedy brimming with both some real gut-busters and some forgivably bland attempts at gut-busters coated in a fun prom night adventure, then “Blockers” is the film for you. 3/5