The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan

"BLOCKERS"

Blockers

Blockers is an extremely unusual movie. It's a major studio release that says adolescent sexuality is normal and healthy, and that parents should basically just chill out about it. That may not fly with more conservative audience members, and the film most definitely presents a rose-colored portrait of the subject. Then again, anyone too conservative probably shouldn't be seeing a raunchy R-rated comedy with jokes about things like “butt-chugging” beer anyway.

The story focuses on three teenage girls – Julie (Kathryn Newton), Kayla (Geraldine Viswanathan), and Sam (Gideon Adlon) – who make a pact to lose their virginities on prom night. Leslie Mann plays Lisa, Julie's mother, who finds out about this pact and starts to panic. She enlists Kayla's dad, Mitchell (John Cena), to help her prevent the girls from following through on it. Ike Barinholtz co-stars as Hunter, Sam's father. He just wants his daughter to have a magical prom night, so he follows the other two around, trying to get them to abandon their sabotage plans.

Of course, none of this is as simple as it seems. The girls leave prom fairly quickly, leading the parents on a wild goose chase to locate them. Along the way, they get ensnared in another couple's weird sex game, are coerced into a drinking contest, and even take part in a mini car chase.

Much of Blockers depends on the chemistry among the leads. Cena, Mann, and Barinholtz all have different comedic styles, yet they mesh well together. Interactions between the characters are witty in how they show Lisa and Mitchell getting each other all fired up, while Hunter tries with exasperation to pull them back. Situations the trio find themselves in absolutely earn that R rating. By and large, they're funny, putting these parents into juvenile situations that bring out their own inherent immaturity.

Director Kay Cannon sometimes steps on the punch lines by rushing the set-ups. This is the first behind-the-camera effort for the Pitch Perfect screenwriter. She shows an admirable flair for keeping the most outrageous moments human-centered, yet would benefit from learning to slow down and build the structure of the gags brick by brick. (Judd Apatow is a master of this.) Nevertheless, there's sufficient laughter in watching the actors commit to such shenanigans.

In its finale, the film shifts slightly, revealing a heart beneath the rowdiness. To the degree that Blockers has a message, that message is that the kids are alright. Lisa and Mitchell have to learn to accept that their daughters aren't so much little girls anymore as they are young women. Being a young adult means having sexual curiosity, or at least an inkling of it. Hunter learns a slightly different lesson, for reasons that won't be divulged here. Real-life adolescent sexuality is much more complicated than the film presents it, as there is frequently confusion, pressure, and a lack of the big-picture perspective that a few extra years can provide. At least Blockers takes the issue seriously, refusing to treat it like a joke, as teen sex comedies of previous decades (i.e. the 1980s) did.

The actresses playing the daughters all give good performances, convincingly capturing the awe many teens experience when staring sex in the face. Adlon, in particular, does strong work, conveying Sam's vulnerability in a touching manner. Mann, Cena, and Barinholtz might be bigger “names,” but Newton, Viswanathan, and Adlon are the secret weapons. If we don't believe the teens, we don't believe the adults. We do believe them, which helps make Blockers a largely effective modern-day look at how sex is even scarier for parents than it is for their teenagers.

( out of four)


Blockers is rated R for crude and sexual content, and language throughout, drug content, teen partying, and some graphic nudity. The running time is 1 hour and 42 minutes.


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