Director: Kay Cannon
Cast: John Cena, Leslie Mann, Ike Barinholtz, Kathryn Newton, Geraldine Viswanathan, Gideon Adlon
Plot: Three parents realise their daughters are planning on losing their virginity on Prom Night, sending them on a desperate mission to ruin their plans.
If it’s true that all of the original stories are done, meaning that cinema is simply treading old ground constantly, then it is up to writers and directors to find a new way of telling these same stories. Kay Cannon, with Blockers, decides to tell the classic high school movie story of a group of teens making a sex pact in order to get rid of their virginity on Prom Night, perfected by American Pie all those years ago, but flips the genders. Now, while gender-swapping classic stories is all the rage, as a few misfired stories have proven, it takes more than edgy casting to land a movie premise. Therefore, Kay Cannon, while has these three female versions of the American Pie, she decides to focus this story on the parents.
This creates a whole new change in pace. She crafts three interesting and unique parent figures in the form of John Cena, Leslie Mann and Ike Barinholtz. Mann is a single mother, who believes she has a deep bond with her daughter, unlike any other parent. However, as her daughter looks at moving away to college, she begins to panic that this relationship might be starting to fracture. John Cena displays a typical case of an overthinking father, worried about Daddy’s little girl growing up and getting into boys. And Ike Barinholtz plays the disgraced father, divorced after cheating on his daughter’s mother, and determined to be the cool dad. When these three parents, with their own uneasy friendship (Barinholtz is seen as the bad influence to hang out with, Mann hates that Cena reminds her of the daughter she used to have), end up stumbling across text messages revealing that their daughters have made a pact to lose their virginity on prom night. The three parents, already worked up to neurotic levels of dread, launch on an ill-advised mission to track down their daughters and ruin any plans they have of losing their virginity. Cannon focuses the majority of the script on these three characters, which suits the story just fine, because all three are charismatic and highly funny. Leslie Mann is a no-brainer, able to do these types of film in her sleep. She makes sure she mines dramatic weight, stopping it from being ‘just another comedy’, plugging the emotion wherever possible. Barinholtz too is a strong comedic actor, capable of raising a joke that little bit further with a personalised figure of speech or a raise of the eyebrows at any given time. Cena is the bigger surprise. He has had lead roles before, but always of a serious action hero nature. He has also done comedy before, but has always been the supporting star, toying with the idea of comedy rather than embracing it. One would argue that the man was not strong enough to hold a film up by himself. Those arguments are well and truly null and voided after Blockers. While this film is held up by all three of these actors equally, Cena takes the brunt of the ridicule. He is game for self-depreciation at every turn, arguably getting the most embarrassing scenes, but selling them with such dedication that he doesn’t feel lesser a hero because of it. In fact, John Cena could be the very next comedy hero, boasting far more personality here than he ever did in 12 Rounds or the Marine.
Cannon could pretty much put the film on autopilot at this point onwards, but she does show skill in other areas of the screenplay. With such strong parent figures, the three daughters don’t need to do too much themselves. And, it must be said that if the film did focus on the three daughters as they are, it would be a pretty dull film. Sensible and self-aware, boasting immature yet respectful boyfriends, the high schooler side of this high school film is pretty tame. It would be a film about a group of friends maturing as people and making right choices along the way. But what these characters lack in hijinks, they make up for with a higher purpose. It is telling that it is the older generation that are the ones fooling around in Blockers. Cannon is highlighting the generational shift in the high school movies of American Pie era. Teenagers are no longer necessarily dumb, even when chugging beer and smoking things they shouldn’t. It is possible for a girl to lose her virginity and not instantly regret her choices. A high school boy isn’t necessarily a douchebag, cheat or rapist. People are just people. It means that, while you are always slightly eager to see what that pesky John Cena is up to in any scene with the kids, this side of the story has importance. All three of these actresses are definitely worth looking out for (remember Newton who single-handedly saved Paranormal Activity 4?). With the characters nailed down, Cannon just has to hit the jokes. Blockers flirts with the ‘too far’ line, especially with two scenes that are sure to be talked about as soon as the credits roll. But whenever the humour gets too crude, just remember the intelligence in the story. Perhaps we can have our cake and eat it, when it comes to dumb comedies about losing your virginity?
Final Verdict: While the performances impress (especially Cena), it is Kay Cannon who elevates her comedy into an intelligent look at the times that should be talked about in the highest regard.