BLOCKERS

Reviewed by GREG KING

Director: Kay Cannon

Stars: Leslie Mann, John Cena, Ike Barinholtz, Kathryn Newton, Geraldine Viswanathan, Gideon Adlon, Graham Phillips, Miles Robbins, Jimmy Bellinger, Ramona Young, Sarayu Blue, Gary Cole, Gina Gershon.

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Teen boys losing their virginity is some sort of right of passage that has been the theme of many raunchy gross out sex comedies, from Porky’s through to American Pie and Superbad, and even the Israeli coming of age comedy Lemon Popsicle, which is one of the highest grossing Israeli films of all time and a huge influence on some of the better Hollywood comedies of the genre. But Blockers, the latest ribald comedy full of smutty gags and toilet humour about body parts and bodily functions inverts the usual male-dominated formula of the genre as it follows the efforts of three teenage girls to lose their virginity on prom night.

Julie (Kathryn Newton), Kayla (Geraldine Viswanathan) and Sam (Gideon Adlon) have been best friends since meeting at elementary school. Julie lives at home with her neurotic and over protective single mother Lisa (Leslie Mann), but she is planning to move away to a college on the other side of the country to escape her smothering and needy ways. She also plans to lose her virginity on prom night to her boyfriend Austin (Graham Phillips), and is looking for the perfect experience to mark her first time. She makes a pact with her two best friends and the three all plan to lose their virginity.

Kayla has been raised by her more sensitive father and jock Mitchell (former wrestler John Cena), who holds traditional family values, and new age mother (Sarayu Blue) and readily agrees to the pact. She chooses Connor (played by Tim Robbins’ son Miles) to be her date for the night. The closeted and more insecure Sam has a rocky relationship with her estranged father Hunter (Ike Barinholtz), a poster child for bad parenting and neglect, who shows up in her life for the first time in a long time to celebrate “the most important night of her school life”. She has a secret crush on Angelica (Ramona Young), but she however reluctantly goes along with the plan, choosing the geeky Chad (Jimmy Bellinger) to be her date.

After the three girls have left for the prom with their dates, the three sets of anxious parents discover the girls’ plans on Julie’s computer and set out to thwart them and the night quickly descends into farce. The film cuts back and forth between the girls’ night out and the parents and their desperate efforts to block their daughters’ sexual experiences.

The film offers up an exploration of teenagers and their often-troubled relationship with their clueless parents who don’t understand them or their needs. But it also raises some questions about parental control, and whether parents should shield their children or let them make their own decisions and mistakes. It also makes some relevant points about sexual attitudes and stereotypes and the inequality between gender roles. Towards the end the film does tend to move into more sentimental territory and delivers some nice positive values.

Blockers has been written by Brian and James Kehoe, and they throw every tasteless gag they can think of into the mix. This is the kind of raunchy low brow comedy that Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, who are both attached as producers, specialise in, and their DNA is all over the film.  However, the writing is often quite lazy, and the humour here is sporadic and more gags miss the mark than hit.

The cast are game and throw themselves into the material with enthusiasm. Cena has showed his comic prowess before in Trainwreck and the two Daddy’s Home films, and in particular throws himself into some embarrassing comedic situations. But he also brings a tenderness to his role. Motormouthed comic Barinholtz fires off the one-liners with causal ease but he also manages to convey Hunter’s slightly sleazy personality. This is familiar territory for Mann, and she brings a manic energy to her role and throws herself into some slapstick comedy and pratfalls. The three young girls also deliver nice and convincing performances.

Kay Cannon (who wrote the Pitch Perfect movies) makes her directorial debut here and she brings a feminist viewpoint to the raunchy material. She maintains a fast pace throughout and keeps the emphasis on the more physical nature of the comedy. However, much of the material here is cliched and familiar from better movies. There is also some crude business involving Gary Cole and Gina Gershon and an episode of “butt chugging” that are best left unseen.

★★☆

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