Director: Kay Cannon
Screenplay: Brian Kehoe, Jim Kehoe, Jon Hurwitz, Hayden Schlossberg, Eben Russell
Starring: Leslie Mann, Ike Barinholtz, John Cena, Kathryn Newton, Geraldine Viswanathan, Gideon Adlon
Runtime: 102 Minutes
Maybe it’s time, maybe its effort, maybe it’s the total lack of imagination finally giving way to the new or making the slightly different stand out in a field of banality, but mainstream broad appeal Hollywood comedy seems to be getting better. With this year’s Game Night amongst others proving a surprise, sex comedy Blockers has taken a premise that sounds run-of-the-mill and made something subversive and considerably funnier than it appears from a pitch.
What’s unexpected given the way the film has been marketed featuring the three parents is how evenly the film splits its time between the cock blocking antics of the three parents – Leslie Mann, Ike Barinholtz and John Cena all delivering expectedly solid work in roles that if their moulds well – and the three daughters who have planned to lose their virginities on prom night.
It’s energizing in how casually it manages to treat aspects of young adult sexual experiences and dalliances into minor drug use without ever judging any of the kids for doing so. The choice is a factor and luxury to their lives, and to follow through on actions or to try something to see if they like it is totally down to their own personal decisions.
Also refreshing is how genuinely emotional, honest and intelligent it is at grappling with three very different emerging dynamics at play. This is as much the story of three girls’ prom night and as it is about the parents projecting their own concerns onto the actions of their children, and all three young women are gifted and convincing performers with a brilliant handle on their very different characters.
As the parents follow the girls from party to party, it becomes clear that each parent has an unresolved problem behind their incentive. Mitchell (John Cena) is overprotective and in denial over his daughter Kayla’s (Geraldine Viswanathan) sexuality, and thinks she needs protecting from men like Connor. Single mother Lisa (Leslie Mann) is struggling to let go of her only child, in denial over Julie’s (Kathryn Newton) plans to go with Austin to UCLA instead of to University of Chicago forty-five minutes away.
Hunter’s (Ike Barinholtz) dynamic with daughter Sam (Gideon Adlon) is the most interesting. An absentee father figure whose perpetual jealousy and unwillingness to get involved in his daughters life hasn’t stopped him from noticing that she’s a closet lesbian, and his terror that she is being pressured into sex with a guy she doesn’t like to keep up the front is one of the most genuinely heartfelt and forward-looking father-daughter dynamics possibly ever seen in a mainstream Hollywood comedy. It helps that Sam’s own feelings for a female classmate are humorously realised is also dealt with in an open manner.
On top of all of this sincere goodwill, the film is fantastically funny as the chemistry shared between both groups offer up their own forms of comedy. The constant banter rarely feels as improvised as it probably is, and though the film runs a little long its resolution from a cascading series of confrontations pays off very well. Even if director Kay Cannon is only just finding her feet visually (this being her debut) she keeps everything light and focused.
If there’s a downside it’s that the big comedy set pieces are never quite as funny as they should be, especially an extended stopover at a frat house party by the parents that outstays its welcome, and dips into gross-out territory that really feels out of step with the rest of the film.
Of all the pleasures to be found in the bluntly named Blockers, its crass sensibilities aside, this is one of the sweetest and most unique sex comedies Hollywood has ever produced, dropping all of the misogynistic sensibilities that have haunted the sub-genre through a generational narrative that feels conscious and in touch with the 21st century without sacrificing the laughter.