By HEATHER TURK
Front Row Features Film Critic
Like the raunch-coms “Superbad” and “Bridesmaids” before it, don’t judge “Blockers” based off of its trailers alone.
The R-rated comedy, which focuses on three parents (played by Leslie Mann, WWE Superstar John Cena and Ike Barinholtz) trying to stop their daughters from losing their virginity on prom night, might look kind of dumb and predictable, but the film is actually a pretty smart coming-of-age story that ultimately treats teenagers with a lot of respect.
Although it might not be an instant classic like “Superbad,” the movie does a decent job of balancing its humorous and heartfelt moments and may even make parents—especially those raising teenagers of their own—tear up at the end.
On the surface, the story by brothers Brian and Jim Kehoe (“Overachievers”) and directed by “Pitch Perfect” scribe Kay Cannon, is nothing new. Three childhood friends—Julie (Kathryn Newton, “Big Little Lies”), Kayla (Geraldine Viswanathan, “Miracle Workers”) and Sam (Gideon Adlon, “American Crime”)—make a pact with each other to have sex for the first time on prom night after Julie tells her BFFs that she’s planning on finally sleeping with her boyfriend, Austin (Graham Phillips, “The Good Wife”), after the dance. Even though Kayla and Sam aren’t in serious relationships, they decide to sleep with their prom dates, too, so that the three friends will always be bonded by the shared experience of losing their virginity on the same night.
When Julie accidentally leaves the messaging app running on her laptop, though, her mother Lisa (Mann, “Knocked Up”) sees the series of texts she’s been exchanging with Kayla and Sam on the way to the dance talking about the life-changing night ahead. After cracking the tough-to-decipher eggplant emoji codes, Lisa and Kayla’s father Mitchell (Cena, “Trainwreck”) decide to go to the dance to stop the girls from making a huge mistake.
Sam’s father Hunter (Barinholtz, “Neighbors”), however, tries to stop the two overprotective parents from ruining their daughters’ night, as he’s not worried about Sam doing anything since he’s pretty sure she’s gay and just going with a male friend (Jimmy Bellinger, “Liv and Maddie”). When he sees Sam kissing her date at the dance, though, he quickly joins Lisa and Mitchell in their quest to stop the girls from going through with their pact, as he’s convinced she’s being pressured into a situation she doesn’t want to be in and needs to start being true to herself.
What makes “Blockers” so enjoyable isn’t the hilarious situations that follow as Lisa, Mitchell and Hunter try to track down their daughters after they leave the dance and stop them from having sex, but the film’s heartfelt climax as each parent-daughter duo realizes what’s truly right for their individual situation. Sure, the beer butt chugging scene shown in the trailers with Cena is funny, and there’s a hilarious moment where the three parents think they’ve caught up with Julie too late only to realize they’re watching Austin’s parents (played by “Office Space’s” Gary Cole and “Showgirls’” Gina Gershon) indulging in a little prom night action of their own, but “Blockers” truly shines when it’s being serious and heartfelt. Sam’s coming out storyline, in particular, is handled very sweetly, and Adlon does a phenomenal job of stealing the spotlight away from her more seasoned adult co-stars.
Viswanathan also holds her own when sharing the screen with Cena, who out of the three lead adult actors, easily gets the most laughs during the film. Mann, as always, is terrific as single mom Lisa, and shows audiences once again how she’s one of Hollywood’s most underappreciated comedic actors. Barinholtz does a great job, too, as divorced dad Hunter, making sure his character never once comes across as too sleazy even though he’s more excited for his estranged daughter’s prom night than she is.
While the plot may be nothing original, props go to the Kehoe brothers for not peppering “Blockers” with some pretty easy cliches. Not only does the film ultimately showcase three very different young women realizing what’s truly right for them by the story’s end, but there’s no forced romance between the three parents, even though two of them are single and it seems as though Mitchell might be in a loveless marriage and hitting on Lisa at first. It’s refreshing to see that, despite the fact that audiences feel like they know what’s about to unfold on-screen, getting from Point A to Point B isn’t completely predictable.
The Kehoes also do a great job of addressing the role-reversal situation in “Blockers” by having Mitchell’s wife Marcie (Sarayu Blue, “No Tomorrow”) yell at Lisa, Mitchell and Hunter about trying to make their daughters’ decisions for them and the double standard of how guys are often celebrated for getting lucky at prom while girls are told they’re making a mistake. It’s nice to see an educated adult on-screen actually believe that their high school senior is capable of making the correct decision for themselves.
When all is said and done, “Blockers” is a lot like a modern-day, female “Superbad,” which makes sense because the film was produced by “Superbad” writers/producers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. It’s raunchy, it’s funny, it talks about an important moment in a teenager’s life—and at its core is actually very heartfelt. “Blockers” may not be a laugh-a-minute riot like “Superbad,” but audiences will definitely be smiling throughout. It’s the perfect film for parents to watch with their own teenage daughters just before prom season—if their kids aren’t too embarrassed to be seen at the theater with them.