Arts, Movies, Review

Rogen’s ‘Blockers’ is the Perfect Mix of Heartfelt and Hilarious



It’s 2018 and we’re finally getting the movie we deserve: one in which teenage girls make their own decisions, there’s diverse representation, and John Cena sticks a tube up his ass for laughs. Yes, I’m talking about Blockers, the latest teen comedy that surpasses all expectations for the genre. Its punchy dialogue, well-developed characters, and incredibly raunchy situations make it a winner, the first movie in recent years that can stand next to Superbad.

Lisa (Leslie Mann) is a single mother to Julie (Kathryn Newton), and they do everything together. But along with her best friends since kindergarten, Kayla (Geraldine Viswanathan) and Sam (Gideon Adlon), Julie’s made a pact to lose her virginity on prom night. When Lisa sees Julie’s iMessage left open on her computer explaining the pact with Emojis, she gathers Mitchell (Cena) and Hunter (Ike Barinholtz) to try to stop them. As you can guess, hilarity ensues. Cena provides most of it, taking more of the risks involved, including the aforementioned butt-chugging scene. In another scene, he puts himself right in the middle of two other parents’ night of role play at home. Spoiler alert: You see Gary Cole’s genitalia. Later, Hunter tries to guide Lisa through a driving maneuver he saw in one of the Fast and Furious movies. In my showing, each one led to uproarious laughter, though none of this is for the faint of heart—or children—Blockers is about sex, after all.  

At the beginning, the dialogue between the girls feels a little robotic, or at least not the way three 18-year-olds would talk now. It gets better as the movie goes on, leading to some genuine-sounding conversations between the trio and their dates. Viswanathan carries the humor for the prom-goers, playing Kayla like the crazy friend everyone had in high school with the right amount of carefree and dangerous qualities. I anticipate audiences will see more of Viswanathan as she progresses in her career—she’s Kate McKinnon levels of funny.

One of Blockers’ biggest strengths is that it turns comedy on its head a little. In the past, we’ve mostly seen the quest to have sex through a male lens—Molly Ringwald wrote an essay in The New Yorker just this week about how unsettling it is to look back at the misogyny and carefree sexual harassment of women in films like Sixteen Candles and The Breakfast Club. It’s rare to find a movie so frank about female sexuality, and Blockers presents it well. Each girl’s path is different: Julie wants the perfect night with her boyfriend of six months, Kayla has decided to make it happen with her date, though she can’t recall his last name, and Sam isn’t really interested in men at all, but feels like she has a point to prove. You’ll have to see the film to find out if they go through with the pact—or just look it up on Wikipedia if you’re lame—but it is refreshing to see young women making choices for themselves, as well as a main character questioning her sexual orientation.

The film also does well to include more diverse casting and unique families. Cena’s wife (Sarayu Rao) is an Indian interior designer, while he is a stay-at-home dad. Mitchell is presented as emotional and very sensitive about his daughter, showing that men can cry and also still kick your ass. Sam’s stepdad is Frank, played by Hannibal Buress. And Angelica, Sam’s dorky crush that shows up to prom in a cosplay cape, is Asian. It’s definitely a small step for equity in film casting, but it felt like a real effort was there to create a cast that anyone could see themselves in.

It’s clear that the main characters of Blockers are Julie and her mom. Lisa doesn’t want her daughter making the same mistakes she did, while Julie wants to go to UCLA, something that hasn’t even occurred to her somewhat suffocating mother, who thought she would go to nearby UChicago. The most heartfelt of storylines, however, is between Sam and her dad (Barinholtz). As an absent father following an affair with a younger woman, he has stayed distant from his daughter. His reasoning for going after the girls is more justified than Lisa and Mitchell’s: He knows Sam is gay and doesn’t want her to feel pressured into doing something she doesn’t want to do. And up against Cena, he’s the next funniest character in the movie. Barinholtz, most famous for his role on The Mindy Project, shines as Hunter, bringing unexpected sensitivity to an otherwise crass and out-of-touch character.

Produced by Seth Rogen, it’s no surprise that Blockers is funny. But it’s more than that—it’s hilarious in a way I haven’t seen since Bridesmaids and in the teen audience, since the incredible work that is Superbad. Though you’re rooting for the kids, you’re also rooting for the parents, so they can at least make a final connection before their daughters go off to college. It may be heavy on the dirty jokes, but that doesn’t take away from the truly beautiful moments in the film. And really, who can hate on John Cena?

Featured Image by Universal Pictures

April 8, 2018