The directorial debut of Pitch Perfect franchise writer Kay Cannon, Blockers, is somewhat refreshing in its worldview while still being drab, forgettable and formulaic. The film wants to be forward-thinking and unique but can’t quite shake its pedigree as yet another teen sex comedy mixed with one of those slapstick comedies where suburbanite parents go wild for a night. Blockers deserves credit for the ways in which it looks at sex and in a healthy way, but all of this is buried underneath a heap of screechy physical comedy and gross-out gags.
The setup is that three parents and longtime friends, Mitchell (John Cena), Lisa (Leslie Mann) and Hunter (Ike Barinholtz) discover that their teenage daughters plan on losing their virginity on prom night. Freaking out over the news (less over a sense of phony wholesomeness and more out of fear of their daughters growing up), the trio decide to set out and be the titular “blockers” the film promises. High jinks ensue as they chase their daughters around, eventually leading to a lot of tender moments that the emotional arc of the film doesn’t deserve.
Regardless, the idea is for the film to be less the bawdy teen sex comedy the trailer halfway promises and more an examination of these parents coming to terms with their children growing up and realizing that they don’t quite fit in with modernity any longer. It’s a fine premise for a comedy and is occasionally handled with an amount of maturity, but these ideas are broken up with things like John Cena getting a beer enema from some frat boys and other assorted bodily fluids. The smarter, more interesting notions that Blockers wants to poke at are undercut by some egregiously basement-level humor. It doesn’t overrun the movie, but the scenes are major missteps for a movie that needs all the goodwill it can muster.
I say that because, besides the gross-out stuff it insists on throwing in, the movie isn’t all that bad. It’s just, unfortunately, kind of there, a lot of watchable, barely nonexistent jokes and characters, at least as far as the parents go. Blockers would be a lot more insightful and enjoyable, I think, if it just scrapped the parents and focused on their kids, who are all much more interesting, mature (both as people and for their understanding of sex) and fully formed as characters. Cannon has a much better handle on them and their world, meaning the film suffers as a whole when their screen time is traded for that of their parents. There are a lot worse comedies out there, but that isn’t enough to give Blockers the ability to be memorable. Rated R for crude and sexual content, and language throughout, drug content, teen partying and some graphic nudity. Now playing at AMC River Hills Classic, Carolina Cinemark, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltmore Grande.