From the Archives: Blockers review

From the Archives: Blockers review

In the interest of getting “hard” copies of my work under one roof, I plan to spend the next few weeks posting the entire archive of my film journalism here on ScullyVision. With due respect to the many publications I’ve written for, the internet remains quite temporary, and I’d hate to see any of my work disappear for digital reasons. As such, this gargantuan project must begin! I don’t want to do it. I hate doing it. But it needs to be done. Please note that my opinions, like everyone’s, have changed a LOT since I started, so many of these reviews will only represent a snapshot in time. Objectivity has absolutely no place in film criticism, at least not how I do it. 

Without further ado, I present to you: FROM THE ARCHIVES.

Originally posted on Cinema76.

For a single word title, Blockers feels pretty unwieldy. Especially since it will always be placed under a picture of a rooster through which the full title is suggested. I won’t say it here, but it rhymes with “sock knockers.” It’s funny how that works. If I were to point to that image of a rooster and say “look at that cock,” I wouldn’t have to censor myself. But if I said “I was trying to have sex last night but my parents are such c__k blockers,” I would have to censor it as such. It’s very silly to me, but I just don’t feel comfortable calling it Blockers. It makes me marble mouthy. Still, whatever raunch was spared from the title for the sake of appeal is more than made up for in the film. Yes, John Cena butt-chugs a beer and poops it into Ike Barinholtz’s face.

Although the film feels very “Apatow,” especially in the way that it tries to give even the smallest characters some face time, it’s never cloyingly so. Perhaps that’s because Blockers is much more interested in being silly than being meaningful. The Apatowan touch is likely brought to the property by producers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, styling the film closer to Superbad than to This Is 40. Even so, there is a little bit of room for things to get touching, and as overstuffed (and evidently cut-for-time) as the increasingly odd story gets, it’s ultimately stronger for it.

In a way, Blockers is two movies smashed into one, and it’s hard to peg one or the other as the primary narrative. First we’ve got your typical teenage “let’s lose our virginity on prom night” story, made fresh by the fact that the horny youngsters, perhaps for the first time ever, are female. The other movie is one in which a trio of parents, all unexpectedly made aware of their daughters’ sex pact, do everything in their power to shut it down… like a bunch of rooster blockers! This second story feels weird, and in a lot of ways it is, but fortunately the film is pretty disinterested in digging too deep. Perhaps if an entire movie were made of either story it could be turned into something thematically interesting, but that’s really not why we’re here. We’re here to watch sillies, and Blockers knows it.

Unexpectedly, it’s through the power trio of youths where the heart of the film is found. Each is a full character, and the complement one another the way real life friends do. Julie (Kathryn Newton) has been seeing a boy for some time and wants prom night to be “magical.” Kayla (Geraldine Viswanathan – a born star) is a bit more tomboyish, and is looking to have sex just for the fun of it. She’s not interested in magic, she’s just looking for kicks. Sam (Gideon Adlon) just wants to be part of the pact, and decides to have sex with a guy if only to confirm her hidden homosexuality.

The bawdiness atypically comes from the parental end of things. Julie’s mom, Lisa (Leslie Mann) is a single mother who fears that her daughter may end up pregnant and stuck in a life she doesn’t want. Kayla’s dad, Mitchell (John Cena) is a tough guy with soft insides who can’t bear to think of his daughter as a sexual being. Sam’s dad, Hunter (Ike Barinholtz) is a hard-partying absentee father who has a gut instinct about his daughter’s sexuality and wants to make sure that her prom night is, at the very least, a blast. If he can get her to stop hanging out with her dweeby, fedora-topped date, all the better.

So yeah, there’s a lot going on, but the script, by Brian and Jim Kehoe, is so enamored with its own characters that it’s hard to feel miffed by how busy it all is. No, I did not need to know so much about the girls’ dates, but since it’s so consistently funny (which is the point), it’s cool by me.

Kay Cannon, the scribe behind the Pitch Perfect trilogy, as well as Girlboss and 30 Rock, makes her directorial debut with Blockers. She’s not an outwardly present director, but exhibits the light touch needed to capture a story without stepping on the comedy. So often does a comedy get wrapped up in being a film ::cough Apatow cough:: that it forgets its purpose, but Cannon keeps things clean and clear, while still injecting some visual know how into things. It’s not easy to maintain the pace of a madcap scene while also being wary of visual punchlines, and Cannon does it well. To walk the line between raunchy and excessive, a filmmaker has to know what to show and when to show it. Having a background in both network TV and PG-13 films, Cannon is given license to dig deeper than usual for crassness and gross-out gags while still keeping things, well, nice. Cannon has a directing career ahead of her for sure, and it will likely stem beyond comedy. I look forward to it.

So the big question remains: How is John Cena? Well, he’s fine. The dude is obviously game for anything, and his charisma is undeniable. As a believable actor, however, there’s room for improvement. That said, he’s improved a lot since his The Marine days. I do find myself weirded out by how T-rexy his arms look when in casual dad wear.

Between Game Night and Blockers, 2018 has already given us two hilarious adult comedies that are more than worth plunking a few bucks down for. In times like these, we can use a good laugh, and Blockers has plenty.

Also, I now know what Gary Cole’s penis looks like, so there’s that.

Blockers opens in Philly theaters today.

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