“Who you are today is not who you’re going to be.”
With each increasingly gross gag from three desperate parents banding together to stop their daughters’ prom night sex pact – especially a Stand By Me inspired sequence that will quite literally leave you dry heaving into your popcorn buckets or giant fountain drinks – Blockers achieves something rather unique; it respectfully talks about sex from both sides of the aisle. And despite the brazen obscenities and gratuitous gestures the film makes great use of, we can always sense that the movie wants to entertain and that the story itself wants to teach us a valuable lesson. Blockers talks directly to its crowd instead of talking down to them or ever above them, and it’s all the better for it.
The film had me hooked from the start, leaning left towards my go-to movie buddy Mother and whispering, “I can already tell I’m going to like this.” There’s camcorder footage of three little girls on their first day of school, their immediate friendship morphs into an eventual sisterhood, and further clips feature their growth up until senior year of high school. Blockers shows this passage of time with such authenticity and honesty that it’s impossible to not believe the bond forged between them, and this initial sequence is what allows us to enjoy all of the foul-mouthed, lewd, occasionally disgusting humor that follows. The jokes might be crass, but they come from a place of deep sincerity and perspective.
Semi-formal doesn’t mean a thing, nor does that big Homecoming dance. They’re opportunities for pictures and little more. But Prom? Well, that’s a different beast altogether, an over-hyped and glorified touchstone that can validate a teen’s new place in the adult world. In Blockers we follow two different Illinois squads – one parents and one young adults – searching to either capture or abruptly toss the flag of virginity. Julie (Kathryn Newton) has her sights set on a cross-country trek to UCLA with her boyfriend and single Mom Lisa (Leslie Mann) would rather be a calm Mommie Dearest. Kayla (Geraldine Viswanathan) is game for whatever fastball is hit her way. She’s an athlete ready to solely be a student, supported by a perceptive mother (Sarayu Blue) and her block-headed, G.I Joe father Mitchell (John Cena) who’s probably been called “coach” more than he ever has been “dad.” Then there’s Sam (Gideon Adlon), a closeted lesbian we sympathize with. Her mom and step-dad don’t understand her angst, and her paternal father Hunter (Ike Barinholtz) overcompensates for the grievances of his past. Despite its title, Blockers is a conduit to conversation.
One of the strongest aspects of Blockers is the utter frustration it replicates from the failure to communicate between people who are close yet far. Sadly, the model is best suited for America’s parent-child dynamic. And if it weren’t for such uncompromising ideals and differing social outlooks and the use of secretive emojis, this film would be nowhere near as hilarious as it is. The movie is funny because it’s so progressively stubborn. Blockers has its aspirations in the right place, though. Three parents want to save their kids from experiencing regret. Three young adults want to learn through living and by making mistakes. In a way, it’s a showdown between the adults trying to disprove the lyrics of “Parents Just Don’t Understand” while the kids are adamant that “(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party).” Sometimes it’s best to allow things to be as they’re meant to be.
Roughly a decade later, I’d argue that experiencing prom night is a bit like finding out Santa doesn’t exist. It’s hyped up all year-long. The school forms a committee to choose a theme, decor, location. There’s a King and a Queen and party. But the revelation of the dance itself is a letdown. The true build-up culminates at the after-party. In my case, a group of friends drove 30 minutes through an ice storm to my family lake house. Some people drank. Music was played…loudly. One friend ran across the thin ice and another threw up on his tuxedo. To this day, I remember the level of trust my parents placed in me, and how they felt comfortable doing so only because they knew that they gave me all of the right tools to succeed in such a situation. Kay Cannon’s Blockers might not be as ingenious as Superbad or as personal as The Edge of Seventeen, but it’s a riotous film about family and friends and gender norms, and it gives an anxious 21st century college try (meaning it includes the heinous “butt-chug,” drugged macaroons, and the occasionally feigned faux pas) in order to keep all of the ridiculousness that’s in play from sailing foul.
“Thanks for showing up.”
Rating: 4 out of 5