Film Review: Blockers

Parents try to stop their daughters’ prom-night plans in a raunchy but innocent comedy.
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It’s parents versus kids in an R-rated sex comedy that pushes easy boundaries without going too far. The directing debut of writer and producer Kay Cannon has plenty of laughs and one or two edgy touches, but its overall air of innocence is what will keep viewers happy.

With its “complete” title implied in the movie’s posters, Blockers is upfront about its raunch, offering plenty of graphic sex jokes. But there is a sweet, wholesome tone to all the slang and emojis, as well as an idealized version of suburbia that the kids in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, let alone Spring Breakers, would scorn.

The plot (credited to brothers Brian and Jim Kehoe) finds three high-schoolers determined to lose their virginity on prom night. Pretty Julie (Kathryn Newton) anticipates a romantic tryst with longtime boyfriend Austin (Graham Phillips). The athletic Kayla (Geraldine Viswanathan, in an energized performance) doesn't care who the guy is, picking her lab partner Connor (Miles Roberts) almost at random. Shy, nerdy Sam (Gideon Adlon), who wants to keep up with her friends, settles on pipsqueak Chad (Jimmy Bellinger).

Prom night is a big deal for the girls' parents too, especially when they see #SEXPACT2018 on Julie's computer. Her hovering mom Lisa (Leslie Mann) sets out to stop the scheme, joined by Kayla's hulk-with-a-soft-heart dad Mitchell (John Cena) and Sam's long-absent father Hunter (Ike Barinholtz).

Blockers sets out three pretty basic approaches to sex for the kids. Julie is set on fulfilling her vision of lovemaking, no matter how unrealistic. The clear-eyed Kayla is less likely to be disappointed (she gets one of the best laughs when she compares penises to plungers). Sam is confused about her yearnings for classmate Angelica (Ramona Young), a bit that plays out a bit too guardedly. But surprisingly, they're not the movie's real focus.

As in TV sitcoms, the parents here are more messed up than the kids. Mitchell is both overprotective and obtuse, unable to see Kayla as anything but a child. A bad divorce separated Hunter from Sam, and he's desperate to regain her trust. Lisa sees herself as a "cool mom," which means bonding too closely with Julie while trying to prevent the mistakes she made as a teen.

The best jokes in Blockers have the parents trying to fit in with kids while keeping an eye on their own. Mitchell endures a new way to ingest beer, Lisa is nearly electrocuted spying on her daughter, and Hunter offers Fast and Furious advice while tailing the girls' limo. Later in the night Mitchell will experience more humiliations, including a bit with Gary Cole that wins John Cena the movie's "good sport" award.

Will the daughters make the right choices? Will their parents learn to trust them? The real question for Universal is whether the appealing turns by Mann, Cena and especially Viswanathan, and not the tame raunch and reassuring plot, will help pull viewers into theatres.

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