Blockers (2018)

Hey, someone finally did this thing right. It’s been nearly two decades since American Pie, and while there haven’t exactly been a ton of movies about teenagers making pacts to lose their virginity, there have been a ton of raunchy teenage comedies that revolve around sex and all fit into the same sort of brand. No, Pie wasn’t the first raunchy teenage comedy, but sometimes it feels like it. Plus, Blockers goes all the way back to the American Pie mold, telling a story about three teenagers who make a pact to have sex on prom night—and also the story about their parents, who want to stop them—so it feels like a fitting way to introduce the topic.

The teenagers are Julie (Kathryn Newton), Kayla (Geraldine Viswanathan), and Sam (Gideon Adlon), who have been best friends since elementary. They’ve each got complicated relationships with their parents that would take too long to get into, but the ones who follow them in the movie are Lisa (Leslie Mann), Mitchell (John Cena), and Hunter (Ike Barinholtz). We break off into parallel stories, one following the teenagers as they move from place to place, and the other following the parents, usually one or two steps behind.

The concern with a movie like Blockers is that it will (1) devolve into stupidity, (2) not be funny, or (3) instantly side with the parents and in effect not grant its protagonists agency or consideration in the process. It was directed by Kay Cannon, of Pitch Perfect fame, making her directorial debut, and written by Brian and Jim Kehoe, whose previous work is limited. I’m happy to report it passes by all three of those concerns … for the most part.

Let’s start with the stupidity. It has a couple of dumb gags, I won’t lie. One’s in the trailer, and there are one or two more scattered throughout. But when only lightly applied, and when they don’t linger for too long, they can be fun. And, besides, the movie is smarter than your average raunchy comedy, so they don’t matter too much. It’s a film with something to say and make you think about, and that alone might separate it from its contemporaries.

Blockers is a very funny raunchy sex comedy that is smarter than you’d think, more insightful and balanced than these things usually are, and follows a game cast acting out a strong screenplay.

It’s also very funny. Without wanting to spoil the jokes, of which there are many, I’ll say that most of them landed and a few of them got more than just a chuckle. That’s a crowd report as well as a personal one. Comedy is the most subjective thing you’ll deal with in cinema, but I’m guessing this one will hit for most of the people who are considering watching it.

Finally, we’ve got the characterizations and the side the movie ultimately “takes,” both of which are handled well. Every one of our six main characters feels like a real person, and that allows us to better understand their motivations. It’s not just “sex bad; abstinence good” from the parents, for example. They have their reasons, for doing what they’re doing, and they even make some decent points. But that’s also true of the teenagers. It’s more than just the sex thing, too. There are more motivations behind everyone in the film. It does a good job of balancing them.

The actors are solid. Most of the comedic bits fall to the older cast members—Mann, Cena, and Barinholtz all get a lot of funny moments—but the Newton, Viswanathan, and Adlon are all really good, too. Small roles from the likes of Hannibal Buress, Gina Gershon, Gary Cole, and Sarayu Blue are also enjoyable. Really, if you give a good script to a strong cast and have even just decent direction, you’ll probably do just fine. And Blockers is better than just fine.

Blockers is a very funny raunchy sex comedy that is smarter than you’d think, more insightful and balanced than these things usually are, and follows a game cast acting out a strong screenplay. It doesn’t drag and most of the jokes land. What more do you want from something like this. It’s always going to have something of a capped ceiling—unless it really goes above and beyond. But it does pretty much as well as one could reasonably hope, which will funnily enough exceed most people’s expectations.

Conclusion: Blockers is way better than I expected, and is one of the best American Pie-like movies we’ve seen.

Recommendation: If it sounds like it’s for you, definitely check out Blockers.

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