Crazy Universal comedies have become a cornerstone of SXSW. They've premiered a ton of Apatow stuff, sometimes in rough cut form, like Neighbors and Trainwreck and non-Apatow goodness like MacGruber, which is still one of my personal all-time favorites. It's expected now and this year was no different.
The palette cleansing big studio broad comedy on offer this year was Blockers, an atypical take on the “losing our virginity pact” type teen sex romp that focuses on the parents of the kids doing everything in their power to keep their daughters from giving it up on prom night.
If that sounds like it could be awfully misogynistic... well, you're not wrong. On paper that could be the most unwoke premise ever, but this film does something very interesting: it's told from a female point of view. Both the parent and teenager plotlines are female-centric. Leslie Mann leads the parents and all the teenagers are young women in full control of their first sexual experiences. It helps that the director is Kay Cannon so you don't get a dude in there fetishizing the young women or making their partners gross. Every sexual encounter in the movie is actually incredibly respectful, which is something I didn't expect. The boyfriends aren't creepy horndog bros, but actual partners. Yes, they're excited to have sex, but they're never pushy or manipulative.
Once the parents catch wind of their daughters' plan they do everything they can to stop them. Smartly the writers give each parent a different reason beyond “I gotta protect my little girl's innocence!” For Leslie Mann this represents a final move into adulthood that takes her little girl away from her forever. For John Cena there's a mixture of seeing this as a reckless decision that could impact his daughter's training and the fact that he just straight up hates her stoner boyfriend. For Ike Barinholtz he's trying to stop his (obviously) closeted gay daughter from bowing to peer pressure and having her first sexual encounter be with a boy she's not attracted to.
It's a very progressive movie... in which John Cena chugs a beer with his asshole.
I have to admire that mixture of wokeness and absurdity even if the movie itself is pretty uneven. All the characters are enjoyable and I dig the set up, so I'd definitely recommend catching this at a matinee or, at the very least, when it hits streaming services, but it's not one you have to rush out and see.
Although I will say that John Cena continues to prove that he's got a knack for comedy. He's such a big, goofy lughead in this movie and he plays that for all its worth. Barinholtz is also very strong, playing his crass dummy persona with a surprising amount of heart. Mann is always great to watch onscreen and she's on point here. Also watch out for a funny, if all too brief, turn from Hannibal Buress.
Outside of the refreshingly progressive foundation it's a pretty by the numbers R-rated comedy. Blockers is never boring, thanks mostly to the earnestness of all the actors involved, but you've seen this movie before and it hits all the notes you expect. Although unlike most R-rated comedies you don't get gratuitous Gary Cole schlong, so there is that.
So, yeah. This one should surprise you, even if it doesn't blow your hair back. The plot is well worn, but the point of view is fresh. I'd love to see this level of thought and inclusiveness become the norm in all of cinema, even the dick and fart joke comedies. Especially in the dick and fart joke comedies.