Review by David Baldwin for Mr. Will Wong
Life-long friends Angelica (Ramona Young), Kayla (Geraldine Viswanathan) and Sam (Gideon Adlon) make a pact to lose their virginity at senior prom. Angelica’s mother Lisa (Leslie Mann) catches wind of the plan and is horrified at the prospect of this. Against her better judgment and with the help of fellow parents Mitchell (John Cena) and Hunter (Ike Barinholtz), Lisa decides to try and stop the pact from succeeding.
The Poster for Blockers features a strategically-placed rooster standing above its title. It’s a subtle reference to what the Film was likely once called – but it also suggests the kind of silly, raunchy and profane experience ahead. Blockers delivers on all three of those fronts and then some – often simultaneously. There are a handful of laughs that do not hit as hard as they should, but those moments are thankfully few and far between. While the Trailers ruin some of the jokes (specifically Cena’s “beer chugging” contest), it also managed to hold quite a few back.
The Trailers also held back on revealing the Film’s sexual maturity, specifically in regards to the teenage characters. I will not spoil how these young ladies’ quest concludes, but I was often surprised and delighted at how unique the Film felt and how it expressed and updated the “losing your virginity on prom night” trope. This is not just some rift on Superbad or any other Judd Apatow-produced wannabe. It feels real and there is an authenticity in both the relationships of the characters and how they act. Yes, they still do and say asinine things, but the emotion and intimacy here always stays consistent. And the fact that the Film is so female-friendly, despite being written by two men, is a testament to the great directing from first-time Director Kay Cannon.
The entire Ensemble is downright hilarious with very few weak links. The teenage leads – Young, Viswanathan and Adlon – are terrific together or on their own, delivering laughs and emotion like seasoned veterans. They are the main focus of the Film and steal practically every scene they appear in. Cena does a great job in his prominent role, playing-up the Physical Comedy aspects quite well. He has only popped up as a supporting player in other comedies, so it was refreshing to see him truly excel in a more substantial role. Barinholtz plays distinctly against-type and does even better. Instead of playing the annoying, wisecracking idiot, his character is the voice of reason and more of a straight edge. There is a persistent sadness brewing under each of his scenes, and Barinholtz does a wonderful job balancing those dramatic moments with the Film’s raunchy sense of humour.
If anyone stumbles here, it’s Mann whose character kicks the plot into gear. She lands some great jokes, but her dramatic moments tend to stop the Film dead in its tracks and nearly derails it completely. Thankfully, the rest of the Cast pick-up the slack, but for an otherwise consistent performer, Mann’s work surprisingly is below-standard.
Blockers is far from the perfect Comedy, but it has plenty of laughs and some great comedic performances from just about everyone involved. Its surprising maturity is what really elevates it beyond its outward appearance of being just another Apatow clone and is more than enough reason to not skip it.
Universal Pictures Canada release BLOCKERS on Friday, April 6, 2018.