Arts movie review

Watch this wild, heartfelt goose chase to cockblock teenagers

‘Blockers’ comically explores sex in liberal politics and the art of parenting

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Leslie Mann, Ike Barinholtz, and John Cena play helicopter parents in 'Blockers.'

Directed by Kay Cannon
Screenplay by Brian Kehoe, Jim Kehoe
Starring Leslie Mann, Ike Barinholtz, John Cena, Kathryn Newton, Geraldine Viswanathan, Gideon Adlon
Rated R
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I’ll be honest: physics psets were stressing me out last week and I needed a film to trash in a review.  I read the premise: three parents go to great lengths to stop their three daughters from having sex on prom night. I thought the plot seemed ridiculous, the hijinks would be absurd, and the characters would be reduced to caricatures. I’m happy to admit I was wrong: the audience and I were laughing hard at the ridiculous scenes, and at the end, I even felt a bit emotional with the characters. Yes, the plot is ridiculous, the hijinks are absurd, but we witness an unexpected humanity in these parents and their children. I enjoyed the hell out of Blockers, so much so that I was tempted to give it four stars before rethinking it.

What could otherwise be a raunchy teen comedy becomes a feel-good film about parenting and the process of watching your children become adults. Yes, parents: young adults can have sex, try drugs, or move to college, or all three. We first meet childhood friends Julie (Kathryn Newton), Kayla (Geraldine Viswanathan), and Sam (Gideon Adlon) as children, but the real stars of the film are their three parents: Julie’s mother Lisa (Leslie Mann); Kayla’s father Mitchell (John Cena); and Sam’s biological father Hunter (Ike Barinholtz), who arguably is the most sympathetic character in the film. These parents are who you root for.  Lisa pretends she is fine; she’s not. Hunter pretends to be an asshole; he’s not. And the buff, military-bred Mitchell gets emotional and cries over everything.

In the first few minutes, these three watch their daughters leave to elementary school. Cut to the present, they now must watch them become adults. The now-high-school seniors Julie, Kayla, and Sam create a sex pact to lose their virginity on prom night. Their parents get wind of their plan and attempt to stop them. They are not ready for their children to become adults. Here, the plot kicks in, bringing in recurring gags and outlandish situations.

The three parents are played perfectly by Mann, Barinholtz, and Cena (who is not just a meme) with great comedic timing and energy. The side characters are also quite charming with their comedic gags (the sexually open parents comes to mind). The film’s humor disguises the film’s surprisingly heartfelt morality. Blockers bounces effortlessly across themes of parenting, infidelity, sexuality, adulthood, and the double standard for both women and men, although due to the nature of its comedy, the film does not explore these themes in any depth.

We have scenes of physical humor, from Lisa, Mitchell, and Hunter fighting in the car to sex games involving blindfolds to John Cena’s character butt-chugging to defend his daughter’s virginity. In contrast, we also have a notable scene when Hunter reveals to the other two parents that he cheated on and divorced his wife after experiencing domestic abuse from her. As per the running gag with Hunter, Mitchell and Lisa both ignore this in favor of solving their situation (the three stranded themselves by crashing their car into a hill). It makes us pity Hunter’s character, but at the same time, I question why this reveal was timed so inconveniently.

Lisa and Mitchell have their appropriate bonding moments over each of their daughters, but Hunter receives his due moment in the end when he meets with his daughter Sam (who resents Hunter for hurting her mother) and gives a heartfelt apology to her for leaving. In return, Sam reveals to him that she’s lesbian, and after Sam reveals she came out to him first, before telling her mother, Hunter starts crying. The ending is a happy one: Lisa, Mitchell, and Hunter (who is finally welcomed) bond over the experience and drink together at a bar. In a later scene, the three parents watch their daughters head off to UCLA, where Julie was accepted. It’s clear where the film’s message lies: children will grow up, and their parents must let them go.