The teen sex comedy has largely been the domain of raucous guys trying to pop their cherry. The 80s had Porkies, the 90s brought us American Pie and Superbad arrived in the 00s. All of these films were told from a male point of view, which makes Blockers a refreshing new addition to a genre that’s long been a boys’ club. Directed by Pitch Perfect screenwriter Kay Cannon, its premise is straightforward: three high school girls vow to lose their virginity on prom night, only to see their helicopter parents swoop in to try and stop it happening.
There’s the popular Julie (Kathryn Newton), quick-witted Kayla (Geraldine Viswanathan) and geeky Sam (Gideon Adlon) making up the high school trio, while single mum Lisa (Leslie Mann), emotionally sensitive Mitchell (John Cena) and loudmouth Hunter (Ike Barinholtz) are the parents desperate to protect their daughters’ virtue. In a neat twist, it’s the kids who are the more sensible, level-headed group, taking control of their prom night and making sure they’re comfortable with the pact. The parents, meanwhile, seem to collectively lose all sanity as they scramble to stop their daughters having sex.
These two parallel storylines make Blockers an interesting mix of traditional sex comedy and the mid-life malaise films Judd Apatow specialises in. It’s no surprise to see Apatow protégé Seth Rogen listed among the producers and his frequent star Leslie Mann leading the cast – Blockers at times feels like Superbad meets This Is Forty. That’s no bad thing, because Cannon manages to strike the right balance between big laughs and heartfelt sincerity. At its core this is a film about friendship – between teenagers, adults, and parents and their kids.
Cena, who started his film career leading low-budget action pictures, really comes into his own as a comic presence here. He’s key to a pair of the film’s funniest moments; one involving chugging beer in an undesirable manner, the other interrupting a blindfolded sex game. Mann, too, delivers a masterclass in physical comedy after getting trapped in the same hotel room as her daughter. Barinholtz’s Hunter is the shambolic party animal who’s frequently making a fool of himself (he likens the task of cracking emoji-coded messages to the plot of Inferno), but a final act exchange with daughter Sam is so well done it wouldn’t look out of place in a film like Lady Bird.
Blockers only really stumbles when it stops in its tracks to have Mitchell’s wife lecture the trio about their quest to protect their daughters’ virginity, something she argues they wouldn’t be doing if they were boys. It’s a valid argument, of course, but Cannon’s handling of her six protagonists (credit also needs to go to screenwriters Brian Kehoe and Jim Kehoe) – the empowered, in control girls contrasting with their hysterical parents – makes this point clear without it really needing to be told.
Nevertheless, at a brisk 102 minutes, which flies by thanks to the bulk of the action being set around a single night, a solid gag rate and immensely likeable cast, this is a funny and surprisingly moving treat. It’s a Friday night film to see with a packed audience, and chances are you’ll walk away keen to see more of these characters. After the success of Girls Trip and Game Night, Blockers is further evidence that the studio comedy is getting its groove back.
Blockers is out in UK cinemas on the 30th March.