“Blockers” took me by surprise in more ways in than one. Based off of the promotional material alone, this one looked like just another run-of-the-mill raunchy R-rated comedy in the same vein as films like “The Hangover.” While the idea that a group of parents going to drastic lengths to make sure their children don’t have sex on prom night is unique, it can also come across as insincere and insensitive if it isn’t done properly, especially when one of your lead actors is pro wrestler John Cena.
Luckily, “Blockers” has far more maturity and complexity to it than your typical raunchy comedy. It’s not just that the filmmakers give a believable reason why these parents would act like this, but that you sympathize with these parents because of how much they put onto their children, and how their kids are as much a reflection of themselves as anything else. Combine this with a sense of humor built upon debauchery and teen drama, and you’ve got a memorable, well-meaning comedy where it’s the adults that are coming of age.
Julie (Kathryn Newton), Kayla (Geraldine Viswanathan) and Sam (Gideon Adlon) have been best friends since the first day of school, but the same cannot be said of their parents, Lisa (Leslie Mann), Mitchell (John Cena) and Hunter (Ike Barinholtz), who all seem to dislike each other for one reason or another. Lisa is a single mother who might be spending a little too much time with her daughter Julie, Mitchell acts more like a coach than a father to Kayla, and Hunter has been absent in Sam’s life since he and her mother got a divorce. It isn’t until the three girls head out for prom night that these three parents find something they don’t like – seeing text messages that say their daughters agree to all have sex before the night is done. Without even giving it a second thought, they decide to band together an stop their daughters from making the worst mistake of their lives.
The comedy in “Blockers” is really hit-or-miss, sometimes nailing a big joke and other times falling very flat on the delivery, especially any time the girls try to talk or act hip. Their delivery can be awkward, especially when Kathryn Newton has to stand up against her clingy mother. However, they nail most scenes involving Leslie Mann and Ike Barinholtz as the father trying way too hard to impress everyone around him with his “wit and charm.” John Cena does fine the jokes he’s given, but his problem is that he seems restrained for most of the film when it feels like this is an athletic character that is always giving it everything he has. This makes the comedy of “Blockers” feel uneven but unpredictable.
Although the funniest thing in hindsight is that the parents are so committed to stopping their kids from having sex, but they’re blind to everything else their children are doing on prom night.
That being said, the true power of “Blockers” lies in its heart. There is a lot of these parents simply sitting down and reflecting on their lives, both before being a parent and how that attitude carried over. In particular, Lisa practically puts every part of her life into raising her child so that she doesn’t end up like her – alone, filled with regrets and letting her mistakes dominate her life. She sees this act by her daughter as a sign that her life is a failure.
The two other parents have just as many moments like this, especially Hunter and how he pinned his ego on being a great dad to a daughter that doesn’t want him in her life. These moments are done without pandering to the audience or coming across as ham-fisted, only scenes of flawed individuals who wear their emotions on their sleeves breaking down in the heat of the moment.
Overall, “Blockers” proves to be far more than just your standard R-rated comedy through its rather complex characters and the way they interact with each other throughout their strange journey. While the comedy is a mixed affair and the acting ranged from good to mediocre, the screenplay is solid delivers at just the right moments. If you’re looking for the funniest film of the year, this isn’t going to be it. But if you’re searching for a different type of comedy with a great message about parenting and growing up, then “Blockers” will not disappoint.
Final Grade: B