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SXSW Review: Blockers is the Teen Comedy 2018 Needs

Photo Credit: Universal Pictures

To compare A Quiet Place and Blockers is a bit unorthodox. One is a tense horror film while the other is a raunchy, teen sex comedy. But at their core, they both question what it means to be a parent and the costs they pay to shelter their children. At some point, parents have to grapple with letting go and trust they did something right.

The directorial debut from Emmy-nominated 30 Rock writer Kay Cannon, Blockers more than earns its stripes. To be honest, 20 percent of the film is completely unknown to me. That’s not to knock it for a lack of direction or confusion amid the five screenwriters. Rather, the audience at the world premiere at SXSW was laughing so loud from start to finish, anything following a joke was left unheard. It’s the greatest issue a comedy could have.

Despite the gaps between punchlines and gags the massive screenwriting crew assembled, there’s still a cohesive story at play.

The day of prom, Lisa (Leslie Mann), Mitchell (John Cena), and Hunter (Ike Barinholtz) all find out their daughters have formed a sex pact on their senior prom night. It’s a stark contrast to when the parents first met each other on their daughters’ first day of elementary. Instead of allowing their kids to grow, it’s that memory of dropping them off at school that’s in their minds.

For Lisa and Mitchell, that’s clear from the beginning. Initially, an advocate to let his daughter act out as an adult, Hunter takes more convincing that his daughter needs to be sheltered and saved from making a mistake. All their motivations are unique, Lisa being the poster-mother afraid of an empty nest, Mitchell as the overprotective dad, and Hunter’s mindset stems from allowing his daughter to find her true identity.

They all have varying degrees of selfish motivations but as the night progresses, the amount of trouble they go through to save the day only ramps up. From going to the wrong house, Mitchell challenged to a chugging contest, and Lisa’s car blowing up to prove The Fast and Furious franchise wrong, things quickly spin out of control.

It’s the moments with the core group of parents that works best (bonus points to Hannibal Burress’ scenes) though. When the focus turns toward the girls and their prom dates, there’s a bit of dropoff. The jokes turn from self-contained humor and turn into jokes at some of the characters’ expense or cheap gags. These have their moments, especially when the parents get to see firsthand that their parenting is working on autopilot now.

But even the cheap moments are elevated by the excellent ensemble. Get ready for the John Cena-issance. He’ll be compared to The Rock because of their similar background and charisma but Cena’s brand of matter of fact acting completely steals the show as he on the most outrageous scenes. Barinholtz and Mann help round out the main ensemble with endearing portraits too. But the younger half of the cast deserve notice too, with Kathryn Newton (most recently discovered in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) as the standout showing her range as a dramatic actress as well.

More than the performances or laughs, though, it separates itself from your other teen comedies by leading by example. The girls have this idealized version of what losing their virginity on prom night should be, but quickly learn that doesn’t exist as it does in other teen comedies. Sadly, the trailers for Blockers are sorely misleading and paint it as exactly one of those by-the-books comedies which Cannon’s debut is decidely not.

Overall Grade: 6.5 out of 10

Blockers hits theaters nationwide on April 6.



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