Sweet, poignant and raunchy as any other R-rated big screen comedy in recent years, “Blockers” often delivers big laughs as well as likeable characters and relatable on-screen emotion.
Does it skirt the line on saccharine as much as it does on taste? That’s debatable, depending on how you define the terms and your relative tolerance for each.
However, what is not debatable is that this film earns its R-rating thanks to language and a number of major gags and set-ups which leave very little to the imagination.
In this case, that kind of commitment to outrageousness is a very good thing. This movie is funny; in fact, it’s much funnier than the trailers and TV spots let on.
What’s it about?
The premise is simple: when three very different parents – clingy single mom Lisa (Leslie Mann), divorcee dad Hunter (Ike Barinholtz), and intensely competitive dad Mitchell (John Cena) – discover that their three teen daughters have all committed to losing their virginity on prom night, they all lose their minds in one way or another.
The trio set off hot on the heels of their supposedly wayward children, ignoring cooler heads as their (over)protective instincts take over. What follows is a zany night filled with comedic party crashing, the parents attempting to blend in with high schoolers who pick up on what’s happening right away.
Meanwhile, as their elders blunder around three steps behind them, the three girls, best friends since childhood who are much more level-headed than their parents, all share their own misadventures centering around #SexPact2018 and the question of “Will they or won’t they?” with their dates.
Cena rules the night
Though he’s billed third in the credits, it’s tough to argue that Cena, the WWE star who has over the past few years has slowly built a filmography filled with memorable but smaller roles, steals the show.
We’ve seen this before, of course. It wasn’t long ago that Dwayne Johnson was building his portfolio and Hollywood cache the same way, carefully selecting roles that showed off his range as a performer away from straight action films.
Looking back in future years at his career, “Blockers” might turn out to be Cena’s breakout role. His range of expression and delivery, when paired with his size and physical presence, lead to big laughs whenever he’s in the middle of a comic set-up, and that happens in this film often.
His co-stars also each have plenty of opportunities to shine, but in many ways they’re playing to type. Mann riffs on an archetype she’s played a number of times before, while Barinholtz, while still over-the-top, gets the rare opportunity to play the character with the most rational mind among the three principals.
Earning that “R”
All that said, “Blockers” can be viewed as just the latest in a string of major studio R-rated comedies that employ this curiously successful blend of outrageously explicit humor and heart.
Not everyone gets the blend right. For every “40-Year-Old Virgin”, ”Neighbors”, “Trainwreck”, and “Snatched” there’s a “Baywatch”, a “Sisters”, or a “Why Him?,” where more gags miss than hit or the writers just can’t decide on a tone and stick to it while shoving all the full-frontal male nudity, awkward sexual situations, vomiting and profanity that comes with this genre in audiences’ faces.
“Blockers” is one of the ones that gets it mostly right. Will it shock you or make you cringe at times? It should, but in a good way, and most likely you’ll be laughing at the same time.
If you’re in the mood for a good comedy at the movies this weekend and you don’t mind all the “grown-ups only” content that comes with this sort of film, then “Blockers” should leave you smiling and a little sore from laughing.
If you’re a parent of a high school teen, it may also leave you wondering if your own child talks about sex and relationships with their friends at school the way the younger characters in this film do – meaning in emojis.
If that thought does occur to you, don’t panic. Emoji is a language that can be learned even by adults.
Starring Leslie Mann, Ike Barinholtz, John Cena, Kathryn Newton, Geraldine Viswanathan, Gideon Adlon. Directed by Kay Cannon.
Running time: 102 minutes
Rated R for crude and sexual content, and language throughout, drug content, teen partying, and some graphic nudity.