OnScreen Review: "Blockers"

Ken Jones

  • Chief Film Critic

The raunchy teen sex comedy is a movie staple that goes back a long way. Most of them are formulaic and not very good. They can range all over the map in terms of quality, though most of them are outright bad. Every once in a while, though, a movie nails the formula and ends up being good (Fast Times at Ridgemont High, American Pie, Superbad to name a few).

Blockers is a bit of a different twist on the teen sex comedy, where the parents of the teens are the main focus of the story as the attempt to stop a sex pact their three daughters have entered into on Prom Night. John Cena, Leslie Mann, and Ike Barinholtz are on the parental side of the equation, while Geraldine Viswanathan, Kathryn Newton, and Gideon Adlon are their children that they are attempting to thwart.

There are plenty of laughs to be had in this comedy romp because of a cast that is game for just about anything, maybe most impressively John Cena who showed promising comedic chops previously in Trainwrecked and a small role in Sisters. He gets the most physical comedy to do here. Mann and Barinholtz are also incredibly funny in their roles as well. Mann is a proven pro at this stuff from her roles in so many Apatow movies. Barinholtz is someone I enjoy but tends to go too over the top at times; he’s perfectly balanced here. Their scheming in figuring out what to do is just as funny as the situations their scheming gets them into, such as a beer chugging contest or breaking the house of other parents to find out where their kids are. That couple is played hilariously by Gary Cole and Gina Gershon and there is way more of Gary Cole on display than ever needed to be seen.

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While there are plenty of laughs, what really makes this movie work is that the story is perfectly balanced between the parents and the teens. It’s rare to get this kind of comedy where about the same amount of time is dedicated to the parents and the teens. It’s a testament to the strength of the script and the capabilities of first time director Kay Cannon (who wrote the screenplays for the Pitch Perfect movies among other things). Everything is clearly spelled out and well-defined in simple straightforward ways, so the motivations of the characters make sense.

Sufficient time is dedicated to the relationships between the three teen girls (who have been instant friends since the first day of elementary school as seen at the beginning of the film), the unique relationships between each teen and their parent, and the awkward relationship between these parents with each other who really only know each other because their kids became friends. The movie is so efficient and adept at handling the emotional aspects of these core relationships that it can go to crazy and extreme places with the comedy.

Blockers gets a lot of laughs from the bumbling comedy of Cena, Mann, and Barinholtz, the story is well-balanced between the parents and their teenage daughters, and the supporting cast is populated by some great off-beat characters. First-time director Kay Cannon deserves a lot of praise for a competent and lean comedy, as do co-writers Brian and Jim Kehoe. It’s still early in 2018, but Blockers has set the comedy bar for movies in 2018.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars