Directed by Kay Cannon.
Starring John Cena, Leslie Mann, Ike Barinholtz, Geraldine Viswanathan, Kathryn Newton, and Gideon Adlon.
When three inseparable best friends decide that they want to lose their virginity on Prom Night, their intrusive parents do all they can to ensure that it doesn’t happen.
From the outside, Blockers appears to be your typical tale of debauched Prom Night antics, the kind of lowest common denominator fare which made Project X the nadir of the comedy party sub-genre, if that’s even a thing. Sure, there’s still plenty of toilet humour on offer – a domino vomit sequence, and a painfully unfunny beer chugging competition – but amongst the recognisable tropes there’s a through line on sexual politics, and a charm that carries it through the moments in which the jokes fail to land.
Why it works is largely down to the enthusiastic cast. John Cena graduates from Daddy’s Home bit-part player, to a lead in a comedy ensemble, and the film plays up to his hyper-masculinised image by making his sports-infatuated father something of a soft-centred worrier, which provides a few laughs. The same applies to Leslie Mann, whose highly strung routine is used to winning effect, for both comedic and dramatic purposes. Her actions might be a bit overbearing, but you’re never in doubt that there are good intentions behind them, plus it’s refreshing that it’s a mother/daughter relationship that strikes the emotional chords rather than any daddy issues.
The real supernova performance to emerge from Blockers is Geraldine Viswanathan, playing Cena’s daughter Kayla. Confident and assured, her character is a rounded representation of a strong young woman making her own decisions and then standing up for them. It also helps that she’s incredibly funny while doing so. If Blockers achieves nothing else, then bringing Viswanathan to the attention of the filmgoing audience is enough.
Having said that, all three of the young women at the heart of the story behave exactly as you’d expect a trio of friends at that age would. At times the comedy might feel contrived, but the characters never do.
As well as tackling important subjects like the ownership of female sexuality, Cannon’s film also deals with the pressures of coming out. The fact that it’s all wrapped up in the packaging of a bawdy comedy might expose such plot threads to an audience who wouldn’t necessarily have to deal with them in a mainstream comedy. That in itself makes it a recommendation.
Blockers isn’t going to reinvent the wheel, and there are plenty of moments when tumbleweeds replace titters, but thanks to Brian and Jim Kehoe’s script, it’s a comedy that manages to balance smarts with stupidity, as well as finally giving us reason for Tom Hank’s Inferno to exist.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★