It is a time-honored tradition that teens in movies make pacts with one another to lose their virginity, but seldom are those teens female girls of the young lady gender! That makes Blockers different from the typical raunch-com — that, and the fact that it was directed and edited with some discipline and seems to have been scripted rather than loosely improvised. I feel like this and Game Night are the only recent R-rated comedies that won’t have an hour of deleted scenes on their respective DVDs.
Blockers, directed by Kay Cannon (who wrote Pitch Perfect) and written by brothers Brian and Jim Kehoe, is less about the girls’ prom-night plans and more about their parents’ efforts to stop them. Single mom Lisa (Leslie Mann) thinks of daughter Julie (Kathryn Newton) as her best friend and can’t believe she would keep a secret from her. Mitchell (John Cena), the athletic and square-jawed but emotional father of Kayla (Geraldine Viswanathan), is appalled for the traditional reasons a father doesn’t want his daughter having sex, with the added element of thinking her prom date is a doofus. Hunter (Ike Barinholtz), the irresponsible absentee father of nerdy Sam (Gideon Adlon), doesn’t want her doin’ it with her prom date because he knows she’s actually gay and would only be doin’ it out of peer pressure. Other than that, he has no problem with anything she does. “Prom was the best night of my life,” he says beforehand. “I think about it every day.”
Kayla’s mom (Sarayu Blue) — whom the movie must occasionally remind us Mitchell is still married to so we won’t think he’s trying to get with Lisa (it doesn’t work; I still kept thinking that) — is the one who points out the double standard here. If these were sons rather than daughters, we’d be high-fiving them, not (to use the term the movie wanted to use in its title but couldn’t get away with) cock-blocking them. There are surely plenty of parents who wouldn’t want their teenage sons having casual sex either, but she’s right about how society in general views such things. Blockers, despite its puritanical premise, ultimately aims to be sex-positive and progressive, letting the girls make informed decisions on their own and chastising the parents for failing to trust them.
The three parents’ frantic efforts to spy on and distract their daughters are mostly funny, though they sometimes build to a stunt that sounds hilarious on paper but is unmotivated by the story (e.g., the butt-chugging scene). Mann, Barinholtz, and Cena have strong comic energy together, and it was a shrewd move to give them slightly different reasons for undertaking their mission: They’re on the same side, but there’s still conflict. But there are more laughs, not to mention more originality, from the girls themselves, with Julie acting as straightman while Kayla tests out her newfound fondness for vulgarity (and drugs) and Sam behaves like a lovable weirdo. The film would have been smart to focus on this trio’s ribald repartee and make the parents supporting characters, not the other way around, but that’s parents for you: always getting in the way of your fun.