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It is rare to come across a film that is as funny as it is heartwarming, or as charming as it is daring. “Blockers,” the directorial film debut of “Pitch Perfect” and “30 Rock” writer Kay Cannon, finds the perfect balance between all of these qualities.
Prom night has arrived, and friends-for-life Julie, Kayla and Sam (Kathryn Newton, Geraldine Viswanathan and Gideon Adlon) make a sex-pact to lose their virginity before the evening is over. Their overbearing parents hear about this and are so concerned they go to lengths no parents have gone before just to try and stop them. And this is no exaggeration.
As much as the film is a story about young girls exploring their sexuality and transitioning from childhood to womanhood, it is also a story about parents coming to terms with this transition. Sure, helicopter moms and dads are a stereotype we often see depicted, but “Blockers” gives it a different tone, one that feels so genuine, it’s impossible not to sympathize with the parents, as ridiculous as they may be.
There is the single mother, Lisa (Leslie Mann), who can’t let Julie go; the over-protective dad Mitchell (John Cena) who can’t see that Kayla is a strong woman who doesn’t always need his help; and Hunter (Ike Barinholtz), the father who has been absent for a good majority of Sam’s life because of his divorce from her mother.
Mann, one of the true comedic talents of our time, really has a great performance here. She, Cena and Barinholtz create a fun trio. From the first scene, which shows the origin of the group, Cannon strikes a note that feels familiar and relatable.
As heartwarming as the film is, however, the humor is not at all innocent. But it works on a level that is so clever, the message of the story doesn’t get lost. It’s daring with meaning.
There are moments of subtle humor which are layered and hilarious. And then there are moments of blatant, raunchy comedy, like Cena’s “butt-chugging,” a party-trick Cannon does not recommend replicating. There is neither too much of one or the other, and this balance strengthens the jokes overall. “Blockers” proves that it is possible for subtle and slapstick to coexist rather nicely.
One of the best things about the movie, though, is how strong and uninhibited its female characters are, especially where the three teens are concerned. Much like their male counterparts, they are young and hormonal, and they don’t shy away from expressing it to one another.
It’s a different perspective from what we often see on film, where teenage girls especially are required to play coy and emotionally complex roles rather than sexual ones. They are told not to show desire, while male characters are told the opposite and more.
In addition to this, their dates all look for consent and make it clear they are totally fine with doing whatever, whether that means having sex or not. It paints an ideal world where women are allowed to express their sexual desires honestly and men are capable of respecting that.
Overall, “Blockers” may have a few kinks here and there but is a film not to be missed as it is one of the best comedies we’ve had in years. Cannon’s directorial debut is a hit, and it will be exciting to see what she does next.
“Blockers” had its world premiere Saturday at South By Southwest and is set to open in wide release on April 6. Grade: A-