2018’s anticipated teen comedy Blockers is helmed by a lot of “first-timers”. Making her directorial debut is Kay Cannon, mainly known as a scriptwriter for the successful Pitch Perfect films as well as the TV series 30 Rock. And then newcomers Jim and Brian Kehoe have made their film screenwriting debut. This can often spell disaster for a teen comedy – so do these newcomers, under the vision of Producers like Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, bring a fresh voice to the genre, or is this one film you should block from your viewing plans?
Julie (Kathryn Newton), Kayla (Geraldine Viswanathan) and Sam (Gideon Adlon) are three high school seniors who are on the cusp of self-discovery and making their own paths through life. In other words, they are planning to go to prom and are making it a night to remember. And in order to do that, the three make a pact to lose their virginity on prom night.
When Lisa (Leslie Mann), Mitchell (John Cena) and Hunter (Ike Barinholtz), three helicopter parents inadvertently discover the pact, they chuck a hissy fit, thinking that this could be a loss of their children’s innocence. They then reluctantly join forces for a crazy quest to stop the girls from sealing the deal; whatever it takes to block the cock.
First off, what I really like about recent film trailers for comedies is that they feature alternate takes of comedic bits that do not feature in the film, which retains the freshness and spontaneity of the story. And thankfully, that is what happens in Blockers, as it presents jokes of improv and setpieces that are not spoiled in the trailers; notably the scene involving the parents and their vehicle.
Now for the nitty-gritty. Does the film work besides the many cooks involved? The answer is a resounding yes. Blockers succeeds as a comedy not only because it executes the best tropes of the raunchy comedy genre with skill and verve, but it also subverts the tropes of said genre as well, in addition to lending the genre a woman’s touch that is seriously lacking.
While the film is advertised as a film about young characters losing their virginity, the film itself is much more than that. It can definitely be seen as a story about young girls exploring their sexuality and transitioning from childhood to womanhood. It can also be seen as a story about parents coming to terms with this rocky transition.
Now both of these stories are likely to have many stereotypes like the hot babe, the helicopter parent, the buzzkill, the nerdy girl, the horny male and so on. But the greatness of Blockers show that all the female characters have a great sense of agency, in contrast of featuring in films, as roles of a decorative nature. And they are the lead characters in a genre that is usually predominant with men.
While some of these stereotypes are present, they are not only played out hilariously (all the masculine roles are flipped upside their heads, basically), but like all great comedies, retain a sense of humanity that makes the humour stand out that much more, making it much easier for audiences to relate to.
And Kay Cannon does quite well in her directorial debut. While there are scenes where the joke does drag quite a bit (a scene involving vomiting) and the dramatic scenes feel quite jarring in how they are transitioned, she does show definite skill in delivering jokes on screen convincingly, particularly with visual cues and physical comedy.
There’s one scene in the film that involves graphic nudity and homophobia that is played off brilliantly, especially with the use of subtitles. And in another sequence that involves a character hiding from their child, the physical comedy is a hoot to see, as it reminded me of the physical comedy in Stephen Chow‘s blockbuster, The Mermaid.
And let’s not forget the wonderfully talented cast that glues it all together. Starting off with the parents, Leslie Mann, who’s already proven to be a professional in comedies, is great as Lisa, the single mother who just can’t let her daughter go. Ike Barinholtz, who’s damn funny in many comedies as well as standing out in duds like Suicide Squad, is acerbic and unruly as Hunter, whose line deliveries are on-point, particularly in relation to Mitchell’s size and demeanor. Both of them deliver on a dramatic standpoint as well, lending a sense of credibility of the character’s motivations, even with the hijinks in place.
And of course there’s John Cena, who has sheer commitment in the physical comedy as well as capably showing the obliviousness and naivety of Mitchell in such a hilarious fashion. He could have been the standout of the film if one were able to see him.
And let’s not forget the young talent involved. Kathryn Newton, who’s had a hell of a career breakthrough in 2017 due to being in acclaimed projects like Lady Bird, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Big Little Lies and Little Women, shows great potential to be a great actress, as she capably shows wide-eyed innocence with a sense of a go-for-broke mentality that is quite appealing. She shares many scenes with Mann and the two have great chemistry; showing both love and animosity convincingly.
And there’s fellow Australian actress, Geraldine Viswanathan as Kayla, whose verbal dexterity and tomboyish attitude make her a force to be reckoned with. And then there’s Gideon Adlon, who makes her film debut as Sam and she does a good job of being endearingly awkward and shows flexible comedic chops due to how Sam tries cover up her secret. The supporting cast consisting of Sarayu Blue, Hannibal Buress and others do a great job, but there are two cameos in the film, which will remain unspoiled, that will stay with you after the film is over. The less you know, the better.
With the dearth of funny studio comedies recently and after the surprising success of Game Night, it is with great pleasure to say that Blockers is a great comedy with a a great script, subversive storytelling and genre execution and a fantastic cast that are sure to make you laugh and even make you feel a bit emotional.
Review Score: FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Blockers hits cinemas this Thursday, 29th March.