28th Mar2018

‘Blockers’ Review

by Matthew Turner

Stars: Leslie Mann, John Cena, Ike Barinholtz, Kathryn Newton, Gideon Adlon, Geraldine Viswanathan | Written by Brian Kehoe, Jim Kehoe | Directed by Kay Cannon

blockers-poster

From Porky’s to American Pie to Superbad, mainstream comedies about teenagers trying to lose their virginities have almost always unfolded from a male perspective. Blockers takes the extremely refreshing step of presenting that familiar story from a female point of view and the results are very funny indeed.

Directed by Kay Cannon (the screenwriter of the Pitch Perfect movies, making her feature debut), Blockers centres on three teenage girls – Julie (Kathryn Newton), Kayla (Geraldine Viswanathan) and Sam (Gideon Adlon) – who have been friends since their first day at school. On prom night, the three make a sex pact to lose their virginity: Julie to her steady boyfriend Austin (Graham Phillips), Kayla to her laid-back lab partner Connor (Miles Robbins) and Sam to her dorky prom date Chad (Jimmy Bellinger), even though she secretly thinks she might be gay.

However, the girls’ over-protective parents – single mum (Leslie Mann), super-sensitive Mitchell (John Cena) and disreputable Hunter (Ike Barinholtz) – accidentally discover their plans after Julie leaves her texting app synced to her laptop. After struggling to decipher a load of sex code emojis, the hashtag “#SexPact2018” gives the game away and the parents decide to put a stop to the plan, by any means necessary.

Cannon’s comic instincts are impeccable throughout. She maintains a fast pace (accentuated by a number of location changes) and achieves an impressively high gag rate, with a potent mix of both physical and verbal comedy. She even makes the film’s gross-out set-piece work, a teeth-gritting sequence where Cena’s uptight Mitchell has to enter a “butt-chugging” beer contest in order to gain access to a party (though the trailer suggests there was a firm hand in the editing to make sure it didn’t outstay its welcome).

The script (by Brian and Jim Kehoe) gets everything right, letting the girls make their own choices without pushing the clichéd, conservative line that a girl’s first time should be special and with someone she really loves. It’s also surprisingly non-judgemental, allowing the girls to indulge in both drink and drugs without the expected horrible consequences, give or take a vomit-athon in the back of their limo.

The performances are terrific across the board. John Cena has been honing his big dumb softie routine for a while now (notably in Trainwreck) and it reaches its comic peak here, with his hilarious turn as Mitch. In return, he’s gifted two great comedy set-pieces – the aforementioned butt-chugging and a very funny sequence where he finds himself caught in the middle of a blind-folded sex game between Austin’s parents (a very game Gary Cole and Gina Gershon).

On top of that, Mann is a riot as Lisa (she has her own physical comedy set-piece and executes it to perfection), while also bringing underlying emotion, as it’s clear she’s entirely motivated by her own mistakes as a teenager.

Newton, Adlon and Viswanathan are all excellent as the teenagers, and their friendship is both convincing and touching. Of the three, Viswanathan emerges as the film’s break-out star (she’s a bit like a young Maya Rudolph) – between her amusing facial expressions, her winning line deliveries and her likeable comic persona, you instantly sense that you’ll be seeing a lot more of her in future.

Ultimately, Blockers is a sharply written and very funny comedy that’s rooted in relateable emotional situations for both adults and children. Highly recommended.

**** 4/5

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