‘Blockers’ Review: A Hilarious, Heartfelt Teen Sex Comedy For Girls
For decades the coming-of-age sex comedy has belonged to raunchy, horned-up teen boys desperate to lose their V-cards during one crazy night before heading off to college. Though recent years gave rise to some honest coming-of-age stories about teen girls (see: Edge of Seventeen, Lady Bird), female audiences haven’t really been served with the same sex-crazed high school comedies. But Blockers finally gives young women the teen sex comedy they deserve — one that’s insanely goofy and hilarious without sacrificing its emotional core.
Kay Cannon’s feature directorial debut (which originally had a much more graphic title) combines the frankness of modern teen girl narratives with the hilarity of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s Superbad and the tenderness of John Hughes-Molly Ringwald classics. Blockers just hits that supremely sweet spot: A funny, smart, and totally heartfelt comedy that is impressively conceived from top to bottom.
Cannon, best known for writing the Pitch Perfect series, takes an overly-familiar premise — three high school besties make a pact to lose their virginity on prom night — and elevates it with relatable humor, while adding an extra dimension via a dueling narrative centered on the teens’ parents. Leslie Mann, John Cena and Ike Barinholtz are the concerned mom and dads of the girls, played by the fantastically talented trio of Kathryn Newton, Geraldine Viswanathan, and Gideon Adlon (real-life daughter of the excellent Pamela Adlon).
As Julie (Newton) sets about planning for the perfect night of first-lovemaking with her high school beau, Kayla (Viswanathan) impulsively turns it into a sex pact, and a reluctant Sam (Adlon) follows — though it’s clear that she’s not feeling what the opposite gender has to offer. It doesn’t take long for Julie’s mom Lisa (Mann) to catch wind of the shenanigans and hatch a plan of her own: Teaming up with Kayla’s over-protective father Mitchell (Cena) and Sam’s absentee screw-up dad Hunter (Barinholtz), Lisa sets out to prevent her daughter from making what could be a huge mistake.
The three adults clumsily trail the party-hopping teens, resulting in plenty of silly gags, including a run-in with the sexually adventurous parents of Julie’s boyfriend (Gina Gershon and Gary Cole in a very memorable scene) and a butt-chugging contest (in which poor John Cena hysterically takes a bullet for his parental cohorts). What makes Blockers work isn‘t just the relatable teenage story, but the focus on the adult perspective, which allows for Cannon and her cast to explore a long-standing societal double-standard: Why do we celebrate when boys lose their virginity, but fight so hard to protect girls from doing the same?
That hypocrisy is given a thorough dressing-down by Mitchell’s wife Marcie (Sarayu Blue), but its complex nature is revealed more intimately in a touching third-act scene between Mitchell and Kayla; when the latter demands to know what’s so awful about having sex, her dad just doesn’t have an answer. The truth is that there’s a double-standard within a double-standard at work here; we want to prevent girls from engaging in the very activity society often fails to protect them from — the same society that demands its women behave modestly while hyper-sexualizing their bodies.
And sure, those are heavy ideas, but they’re conveyed in such small, sweet ways in Blockers, which — despite some of the smarter things on its mind — is still a hysterical comedy through and through. As a mother, Cannon is able to deftly explore every side of the debate at hand, providing insights from teen daughters and single mothers, doting dads and endearingly clueless boys named Chad. There isn’t a mean bone in this movie’s body; even when it’s poking fun at the aforementioned Chad — Sam’s red-headed boyfriend who sports a friggin’ fedora. The guy is a walking target, but Cannon empathizes with him, too.
There’s something relatable for almost everyone in Blockers, which offers characters conflicted about their impending futures and the possible disconnection from childhood friends; parents terrified of being alone (like, really alone) when their kid leaves the nest; and an insanely funny depiction of the classic Soft Boy (Google it) — the woke-ish, sensitive Connor with his man-bun and artisanal edible-making hobby.
But the real treat is how Cannon treats Sam, a nerdy girl struggling to define her sexuality and nursing a crush on a LARP-loving classmate. Blockers is one of only a few major studio comedies that doesn’t play a same-sex kiss for laughs or titillation or gross-out gags. (I honestly can’t think of another major studio comedy that’s treated a same-sex kiss the same way they’d treat any other kiss; maybe — hopefully — I’m wrong.)
The perfect teen coming-of-age story is just as rare as a great sex comedy; and exceptional comedies in general are hard to find — which would make Blockers something of a cinematic unicorn for delivering on all counts.