Thursday, April 12, 2018

Review | Blockers | 2018

The title of Blockers should really be Cock Blockers. Its marketing campaign has cheekily alluded to this, usually setting a rooster on top of the title in all of its advertising materials. But this R-rated tale of parents attempting to cock block their teenage daughters makes up for the PG-rated title in other ways. Blockers is American Pie for the #MeToo era, a film as much about sexual agency as it is about sex, tracking the efforts of three teenage girls who make a pact to lose their virginity on prom night.

In American Pie, the horny high schoolers discovered that there's more to relationships than sex, whereas the lesson learned by the girls of Blockers is less about avoiding sex and more about choosing when they do it on their own terms. Their parents, however, aren't so keen on this idea, and when one of their daughters leaves their computer open, and iMessages start popping up with information about their agreement to lose their virginity at prom, the parents spring into action, crashing the prom in order to stop the kids from going through with it.

Hilarity, of course, ensues, as the decidedly uncool parents attempt to blend in with the partying high-schoolers, and valuable lessons are learned all around. Yet this female-led raunch-fest has a heart and a sense of purpose that is rare in these sort of teen sex comedies. In the end some of the teens decide to go ahead and lose their virginities, some choose to wait for another time, and some decide the time is right to come out of the closet, but the point is that it's their choice, and their parents learn the hard way that their children have grown up and are at last ready to leave the nest and make their own choices.

Lest you think Blockers is trying to wag its finger at us, it's a truly funny comedy that has plenty of R-rated laughs. Leslie Mann, John Cena, and Ike Barinholtz are terrific leads, playing the parents as sincerely concerned about their children rather than controlling helicopter parents. Director Kay Cannon, a writer making her directorial debut after penning all three Pitch Perfect films, balances the sexual humor with a sense of actual wit and humanity. This isn't Oscar Wilde, but there's a layer of sensitivity beneath its bawdy exterior that makes it surprisingly endearing.

Maybe it's a sign that I'm becoming an old fuddy-duddy, but I couldn't help but sympathize with the parents' desire to protect their children (the parties they attend are filled with hard drugs and alcohol), but in the end its message of body autonomy is both positive and well executed. It represents a natural progression of a genre that has long been trapped in regressive ideas of sexuality (especially female sexuality), and treats its characters not like objects, but like fully developed human beings. And that in itself makes Blockers something of an anomaly that deserves to be celebrated.

GRADE  - ★★★ (out of four)


BLOCKERS | Directed by Kay Cannon | Stars Leslie Mann, Ike Barinholtz, John Cena, Kathryn Newton, Geraldine Viswanathan, Gideon Adlon, Graham Phillips | Rated R for crude and sexual content, and language throughout, drug content, teen partying, and some graphic nudity | Now playing in theaters everywhere.

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