Blockers (2018) Review
SOMETHING OLD, SOMETHING NEW
Speaking in general terms, it’s a commonplace theme / mantra (almost a “rite of passage” to some) for teenagers to (or to simply attempt) in losing their virginity sometime before their high school years come to an end. Whether good or bad (depending on the circumstances of things in reality), its usually during this point when teenage individuals are “discovering themselves” and want to experience new things and becoming more acutely aware of the sexual identity and pleasures. Thus, before heading into their post-high school world (college, military service, job, etc.), it’s a ripe time (in a young adult’s mind) to experience such things before heading into their stage of life (i.e. adulthood). Of course, Hollywood has taken their stance with this many story / narrative premises over the years and (naturally) has touched upon this subject in several feature films. While some are a bit grounded and serious, most feature films that tackle teens seeking to lose their virginity have been played for laughs, making a somewhat lighthearted and / or comedic aspect of the situation. While many of these films were created back during the 80s and 90s, 1999’s American Pie and 2007’s Superbad are arguably some of the most memorable ones in this niche, playing up the teen sexual angst (broadly) in R-rated raunchy comedy playing field. Of late, however, Hollywood has somewhat moved beyond its premise (mostly like to the change in attitude towards the concept of virginity nowadays, refocusing on different topic / subject matters to poke fun at and / or perform satire parodies of with its new audience of moviegoers. Now, Universal Pictures and director Kay Cannon sees the return of the teen sex comedy niche with the film Blockers. Does new R-rated comedy stand on solid ground for this narrative to return to the big screen or does it outdated premise and subject material fail to connect with the current generation of viewers?
When dropping their daughters off for their first day of elementary school, parents Lisa (Leslie Mann), Mitchell (John Cena), and Hunter (Ike Barinholtz) become friends and their young girls hit it off as well. While the girls maintain their close-knit friendship throughout their childhood, their parents have slowly drifted apart from each other. Lisa mainly focuses on her relationship with her daughter, Julie (Kathryn Newton), which sparks a fear of change in the single mother when Julie leaves for college. Mitchell is having a difficult time coming to terms with his daughter, Kayla (Geraldine Viswanathan), growing up, while Hunter struggle to make up for his time away from his daughter, Sam (Gideon Adlon) since his recent divorce. 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 or getting hurt in the process. At first, Hunter attempts to stop his former friends from their actions but gets on-board 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). Meanwhile, the girls are trying to have a night to remember, with Julie hoping to lose her virginity to her boyfriend Austin (Graham Phillips) and Kayla wants to loser her virginity to her lab partner Connor (Miles Robbins), while Sam wrestles with her own sexual identity during this pivotal moment. As the night continues on, the trio of parents are in hot pursuit of their daughters, tracking down their whereabouts in order to successful “block” their sexual / lustful plans.
THE GOOD / THE BAD
Oh, I remember my teenage years in high school. If I can remember correctly, it was a revolving door of gossip and rumors amongst my fellow classmates. For me, I kind was friends / acquaintances with many people from different social high school cliques. You know what I mean…. the classic “Who’s who” person who knew the word around the school. I mean I knew who was dating who, who broke who, and who was “hooking” up with you. Yes, I remember hearing of some of my fellow teenagers having sex. As I said, it was a somewhat “rite of passage” kind of thing as teenagers are usually trying to find themselves (i.e. discovering who they are and what they like). Additionally, growing up on a healthy dose of 80s and 90s movies, the whole teen sex aspect comedy was prevalent in my knowledge versus how it’s seen in today’s world. For me, however, my two personally favorites movies (of the teen sex comedy subgenre) were definitely American Pie (the original 1999 version) and Superbad, which were more geared towards my generation (i.e. Generation X), offering up a raunchy male teen fantasy-esque cinescope motion picture that explored that idea and produced memorable R-rated laughs along the way. Like I said in my opening paragraph, the teen sex comedy angle sort of faded out around the 2010 era. This switched was mainly due to the shifting in tones (and views) on sex with the next generation (the “Millennial” generation). They were still R-rated comedies out there, but majority of movies (of which featured teens) became more romance / fantasy installments, with the paranormal romances (I’m talking about Twilight saga) to dystopian adventures (The Hunger Games saga and the Divergent series) and to fictional dramas (The Fault in Our Stars and Paper Towns, etc.).
Of course, this brings my point back around to Blockers, which seeks to see the return of the comical teen sex comedies subgenre back into the forefront. I didn’t remember hearing that much about this movie until I saw the film’s theatrical trailer via online. Of course, being a fan of adult R-rated comedies, I literally died laughing when I saw it. However, I did forget to post it on my blog (sorry guys) as it just fell through the cracks every time I thought about it. Still from the film’s story premise to the casting choice, Blockers was definitely a movie that I was interested, especially since I’ve found a lot of recent comedy endeavors to “lacking” in the comedic laughs department of late. So, I went to see Blockers with some high hopes for this movie. So, what did I think of it? Did it live up to my expectations? Short answer…. yes, it did. While did have a few minor complaints about the movie, Blockers is definitely a hilarious update to the classic teen sex comedy premise, offering raunchy fun and a breezy and entertaining feature to watch as well as some unexpected (yet welcome) heart to the proceedings.
Blockers is directed by Kay Cannon, who’s mostly known for screenplay writing for several TV shows including 30 Rock, New Girl, and Girlboss as well as penning the script for all three Pitch Perfect films. Given that background, which is mostly centered around female comedies, Cannon seems like a suitable choice in directing a feature film of teen girls who make a pact to have sex on prom night. Additionally, Cannon makes her directorial debut with Blockers, offering a somewhat fresh perspective of the teen sex comedy premise as well as on the R-rated comedies of late. In the comedy department, Cannon stages a plethora of humorous moments, displaying plenty of belly laughs moments that are fun and zany. Honestly, I though the film’s humor via the various jokes and gags was pretty good, which had me laughing a lot through the movie. There’s good sampling of funny one-liners and some outrageous sight gags that Cannon makes work within Blocker’s narrative, making the movie enjoyable within the comedic aspect. Cannon also knows how to pull back on the movie’s comedy when certain story plot dramatics are called for, which Blockers does have a few and does resonate within their characters and in the film itself. Altogether, Cannon’s fresh experience gives Blockers and uniqueness to it all and ultimately works as an entertainment raunchy comedy feature than most.
The movie’s script, which was done by Brian and Joe Kehoe, gives the movie a somewhat interesting perspective on this teen sex comedy. What do I mean? For the most part, past teen sex comedies have mainly focused on male protagonists and their experience in having sex with females. Blockers takes a different approach (set in somewhat similar fashion) by switching up with high school female teens looking to lose their virginity. In the end, the movie never really takes a stand for or against teens having sex, but rather gives new perspective, which probably speaks to the “millennial” generation on their views of losing their virginity. Coinciding with that, the three parents in the film also learn an important lesson about their daughters (i.e. trust and growing up) with the notion of having a mindset / understanding of sex from the more “old school” basics from the 80s and 90s. Thus, it’s classic old vs new ideologies. All in all, these elements make Blockers, underneath the raunchy humor and crass gags, have more heart and empathy than other past teen sex comedy endeavors.
In terms of a filmmaking presentation, Blockers looks and feels like your standard comedy film. There’s nothing wrong with that as comedy movies are not usually know for their creative cinematics like a drama feature would or in a superhero blockbuster endeavor. There are few sleek camera angles and some fun usage of lighting, which should be highlighted in the movie. Much of everything else, including costumes designs, production designs, set layouts, and film editing are on par with the film industry standards, which (again) is a good thing. In short, Blockers’s overall technical presentation won’t win any awards, but there’s absolutely nothing to hate about it.
For the most part, Blockers succeeds in making itself own and being memorable within its raunchy premise and insight look into a new generation of teens (and their views on sex), but the film does have a few problems along the way. Perhaps the most notable one that I notice was in the development of character arcs, especially made the teenage girls. There acting is fine in the movie, but their overall personal arc in their respective story ends up being shortchanged. This is mainly due to Cannon’s directorial is a bit unexperienced, finding the movie to be a bit “less” humorous when characters Lisa, Mitchell, and Hunter are not on-screen and becomes slightly dull when the camera solely focuses on Julie, Kayla, and Sam. Perhaps the movie could’ve benefited with a bit more “roundedness” to the trio of teenagers, exploring more of the mental state of mind throughout the course of the night. This, of course, raises the question on who the movie is more about: the teenagers or the parents? Well, to be honest, I think it’s the parents, but the teenager girls act as the catalyst of the story and in the film’s progression. You can definitely feel a certain “unbalanced” throughout the film as Cannon as a hard time juggling of the three teenagers and also their parents. I just think the teenager girls could’ve been a bit more developed and given a better background arc for them to follow. In conjunction with this, the movie, while having heart and touch of sensibility, lacks a sense of substance within the context of some of its narrative structure. There could’ve more of one scene or another scene or added depth / insight into plot point and, with a runtime of only 102 minutes, the movie could’ve easily expanded itself by additional ten minutes; possibly in a fun detour shenanigan, character insight, or plot point. Thus, while the loved this movie, it doesn’t reach its full potential, which a bit disappointing. Additionally, as a very minor complaint, the film, despite being different from American Pie and Superbad, does a have few similarities that the three teenager girls go through (mostly during the third act and how they tackle their big sex scene) to those movies. It’s not a clear-cut replication of the ideas, but it’s not enough to make you say “have I seeing this before”.
Of course, one of the film’s big highlights is found within the three big stars of the feature, finding the comedy angst of actress Leslie Mann, WWE / actor John Cena, and actor Ike Barinholtz in their respective roles of Lisa (Julie’s close single mother), Mitchell (Kayla’s sport-obsessed and overprotective dad), and Hunter (Sam’s recently divorced dad). Mann, known for her roles in Knocked Up, This is 40, and How to be Single, is great in playing Lisa, showcasing her comedic timing with her character and adding her own level of humor idiosyncrasies. Of course, she knows how to make her character humorous as well as displaying the right amount of drama, especially within her mother-daughter relationship with her character’s daughter Julie. Likewise, Barinholtz, known for his roles in Neighbors, Sisters, and The Mindy Project, continues to do a solid job in the comedy roles, playing up his inherit theatric quirks and overall comedic goofiness with Hunter. Additionally, he does get to show a bit more weigh with his character towards the end of the film, which is nice to Barinholtz to display. However, perhaps the more memorable performance of the trio would have to be from Cena. Mostly known for his professional wresting, but recently feature films including Ferdinand, Trainwreck, and Sisters, Cena provides to be incredible funny and adept to making a splash (in a lead role) for a comedy feature, finding his iteration of Mitchell to be the somewhat “main attraction” of the trio. Like a lot of his fellow wrestlers who made the jump to the silver screen (i.e. Dave Bautista and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson), Cena has the right amount of timing and deliver in his dialogue, which helps in aiding his performance, while also not going a bit overboard, able to “tone it down” when the film’s more softer moments are needed from him. Together, these three are the true highlight of Blockers as all three of them share great on-screen chemistry with each other.
Behind them would have to be their character’s teenage daughters, respective being played by actress Kathryn Newton (Lady Bird and Big Little Lies) as Julie, actress Geraldine Viswanathan (Janet King and Miracle Workers) as Kayla, and actress Gideon Adlon (American Crime and When We Rise) as Sam. Together, these three young actresses prove to be effective as their counterparts to their character’s parents. Like I said before, their overall roundness in character development could’ve been expanded, but what’s presented in Blockers is enough to make them good for what the needs. However, to be honest, Viswanathan’s get some of the more “humorous” one-liners of three, while Adlon’s Sam (giving the subject material around her character) is the most dynamic and the more memorable one of the three. Newton’s Julie is the probably the weakest one of three teenagers, but she sort of compliments Mann’s Lisa, so it kind of breaks even.
The rest of the Blockers cast are more in the supporting roles, filling in various scenes and / or acting as follies for some of the main principal cast of characters. This includes actor Graham Phillips (The Good Wife and Goats) as Julie’s boyfriend / prom date Austin, actor Miles Robbins (My Friend Dahmer and Mozart in the Jungle) as Kayla’s prom date Connor, actor Jimmy Bellinger (Liv and Maddie and The Middle) as Sam’s prom date Chad, actor Hannibal Buress (Neighbors and Spider-Man: Homecoming) as Sam’s stepfather Frank, actress June Diane Raphael (Unfinished Business and The Disaster Artist) as Sam’s mom / Hunter’s ex wife Brenda, actress Sarayu Blue (Monday Mornings and No Tomorrow) as Kayla’s mom / Mitchell’s wife Marcie, actor Colton Dunn (Superstore and Hatchet II) as the limo driver Rudy, actor Jake Picking (Patriots Day and Goat) as high school teenager Kyler, and Gary Cole (Office Space and Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby) and actress Gina Gershon (Bound and Showgirls) as Austin’s parents Ron and Cathy.
It’s prom night as Julie, Kayla, and Sam look to lose their virginity, while their parents (Lisa, Mitchell, and Hunter) try to “block” their big “sexual” moment in the movie Blockers. Director Kay Cannon’s newest film takes an interesting approach to the teen sex comedy, showcasing a group of female protagonist teens (looking to lose their virginity), while also showing a fun romp with their respective parents trying to stop them. While it does stumble in some character building moments and some familiar plot beats territory, the movie makes up for it by means of bring a hilarious comedy endeavor (both one-liner jokes and some outrageous gags), a unique female perspective on the genre premise, and some solid acting all around, especially found in Mann, Cena, and Barinholtz. Personally, I liked this movie. Like I said, there were a few problems I had with it, but (for the most part) it was definitely a hilarious movie that made me laugh (a lot), which I haven’t done for a new R-rated comedy feature for quite some time. Thus, my overall recommendation for Blockers would be “recommended”, especially for fans of this genre of comedy flicks. In the end, Blockers is a new raunchy comedy for a new age, offering a humorous and empathetic new take on the classic teenagers losing their virginity premise that’s quite entertaining for both the younger and older generations. The film may not be the “definitive” film on the teen sex comedy angle, but its definitely a step in the right direction for that genre and in recent raunchy R-rated comedies features.
4.0 Out of 5 (Recommended)
Released On: April 6th, 2018
Reviewed On: April 11th, 2018
Blockers is 102 minutes long and is rated R for crude, and sexual content, and language throughout, drug content, teen partying, and some graphic nudity