Whenever the words “sex” and “comedy” are paired together, it’s often a bad sign, indicative of juvenile jokes, boorish behaviour and alpha-male sentiments – in other words, a film destined to appeal solely to horny teenage boys. But with their needs now being fulfilled by the Internet, the time has come for the genre to evolve and find an audience of more discerning tastes.
It is Prom Night, and high school senior Julie (Kathryn Newton) is preparing to lose her virginity to Austin (Graham Phillips), her boyfriend of several months. Upon hearing this news, Julie’s friends Kayla (Geraldine Viswanathan) and Sam (Gideon Adlon) decide they want to do the same with their respective crushes, Connor (Miles Robbins) and Chad (Jimmy Bellinger). Thus, a pact is born, with all three promising they will no longer be virgins by evening’s end.
As Julie and her friends are out partying, her mother Lisa (Leslie Mann) comes across her laptop, which is turned on, unlocked and displaying the Group Chat between the three girls. With the help of Kayla’s father Mitchell (John Cena) and Sam’s estranged dad Hunter (Ike Barinholtz), Lisa decodes the emojis being sent between their daughters and learns of the three-way pact, pledging to go out of her way to stop it from succeeding – but not without Mitchell and Hunter.
While it may seem otherwise, these three parents are not seeking to impose any moral authority over their children. Lisa fears that Julie is making the same mistakes that she herself made years earlier; Mitchell is worried that Kayla will be defenceless, unable to reject any unwanted advances; and Hunter, who suspects his daughter is a lesbian, believes that Sam will be coerced into doing something she is not comfortable with. Unlike so many sex comedies, the actions of these parents are understandable and justifiable.
Just like their parents, the three teenage girls all possess their own motivations, and aren’t merely partaking in their activities because they can. For Julie, intercourse is about making Prom Night special and memorable; for Kayla, it’s the opportunity to do something fun; and for Sam, it’s all about the camaraderie, a chance to bond and be closer to her friends. What a relief it is to see three females who aren’t the air-headed, sex-crazy stereotypes often associated with this type of film.
This doesn’t mean that these traits are passed on to the girls’ male counterparts, since Austin, Connor and Chad are also smartly-written characters – they listen to the concerns of their girlfriends, respect their boundaries, and only do things with their consent. That’s not to say that the boyfriends are submissive, for they too can be assertive, either instigating sexual activity with their girlfriend, or letting their apprehensions known about engaging in such behaviour.
While the teenagers and their activities are treated daintily, the same certainly cannot be said of their parents. It is they who are the victims of the tomfoolery that plagues this genre, like having to witness, and even engage in, the foreplay of a middle-aged couple, or skull a bottle of beer with their rectum. It’s also worth noting that the adults are the only characters who expose themselves, with the teenage protagonists – wisely, in this reviewer’s opinion – electing to cover-up.
Further belying the intelligence of Blockers is the dichotomic approach to comedy. There are times when the film is hilarious, with Ike Barinholtz and, surprisingly, John Cena being the most proficient comedians; yet there are equally as many moments where the gags falter, and would benefit from some sharper timing. Similar problems are present in the script, which feels like two films combined together – one a charming teen drama, the other a distasteful (but not unwatchable) adult cringe-fest.
Blockers is a deceptively-clever comedy that bravely refuses to adhere to the conventions of the genre. While its jokes don’t always hit the mark, it does possess a group of well-written characters and some very positive messages for both high-schoolers and parents. Here’s praying the film is a signal of better times ahead.