In Hollywood, teen movies can be a dime a dozen. Some films like American Pie and Can’t Hardly Wait transcend the decades, while others crashed and burned spectacularly (Not Another Teen Movie, anyone?). This week, SXSW darling Blockers hits theaters, riding a wave of popularity. Does the film live up to the critical hype? Here’s everything you need to know before going to see Blockers.
Blockers follows dual storylines as three high school friends (Kathryn Newton, Geraldine Viswanathan, and Gideon Adlon) go to their prom. What does is the usual go-to plot for this genre of movie? Sex pact of course! These girls are going to lose their virginity. However, things are complicated by their parents (Leslie Mann, John Cena, and Ike Barinholtz), who discover the girls’ plans through a misdirected group chat. Even though the parents are struggling with their own insecurities stemming from their daughters upcoming graduation, they resolve to “cock block” the sex pact. Blockers is directed by Kay Cannon from a script by Brian and Jim Kehoe.
Blockers has been making media waves due to its treatment of gender within the teen film plot line. Teen comedies haven’t shied away from sex pact storylines in the past. American Pie stands out as one of a host of examples, but there are dozens of others… always following boys. Blockers makes a different choice as our three leads are female. This is most certainly a unique narrative decision, and it feels like a timely choice.
However, Blockers is keenly aware of its own originality. In fact, the narrative stops midway through act two in order to lecture the parents (and our audience) about female sexuality. Girls like sex too! Unfortunately, the movie’s ultimate problem is that in its current form, the adults serve as the audience’s entry point to the story. As such, we’re not set up to identify with the girls; rather, we hear how weird raising girls is… and how girls are different than boys. Ultimately, Blockers is not the progressive, #MeToo teen comedy producers would have you believe. Rather, it feels like a (still strong), but ultimately mainstream comedy.
The performances in Blockers are strong all around. Leslie Mann is her always solid self. Meanwhile, wrestler turned actor John Cena carries a lot of comedy weight in the narrative. Viewers who enjoyed his turn in Trainwreck should love this film. Cena brings a keen sense of comedic timing and hammers home a number of laugh-out-loud moments. Meanwhile, actor Ike Barinholtz also shines, finding an interesting likability in an often stereotypical, ladies man. In fact, of the adults, Barinholtz truly stands out in his layered portrayal of Hunter. He injects subtle depth into the character, mining the insecurities below the man’s wise-cracking exterior.
At the same time, the girls also bring fun and unique characters to the screen. Each revel with the comedy and bring entertaining laugh-out-loud moments. Probably the biggest standout is Geraldine Viswanathan. The young actress looks to be having a blast as the athletic and adventurous Kayla. She’s relatable, energetic, and brings some of the most entertaining moments for the young cast.
Finally, and most enjoyably, Hollywood once again brings a movie for teens with a sense of optimism and acceptance. Much of this narrative is rooted in Sam’s (Adlon) character arc. The teenager finds herself struggling, not only with her sexuality but also with questions of friendship and getting older. Will her high school relationships last once she goes to college?
Ultimately, in the hubbub of boys and sex, the film makes the smart decision to focus on the girls’ relationship as the primary one (as opposed to the romantic pairings). As the credits roll, the message of being yourself, having close friends and loving who you are trumps the usual focus of sex, romance, and popularity. With films like this and Love, Simon hitting screens for young people, it seems like the future is going to be okay.
Blockers is what it is, a solid teen sex comedy. While the film does have some noted positives, it really isn’t the progressive wonder which the marketing wants it to be. Fans of raunchy teen comedies should definitely enjoy this one. It brings some definite laughs and an enjoyable mood.
Blockers opens today in theaters around the country.