The 400-Word Review: Blockers
By Sean Collier
April 9, 2018
I had very low expectations for a movie called Blockers — so named because its intended title cannot be displayed in a movie-theater lobby yet represented on posters with an outline of a rooster.
I really wasn’t expecting maturity, thoughtfulness or truth. And yet: All were found. In between pratfalls, a few choice bodily fluids and graphic bedroom farce, there is heart in Blockers.
No, really. I’m being serious.
High school seniors Julie, Kayla and Sam (Kathryn Newton, Geraldine Viswanathan and Gideon Adlon) decide to cap off their adolescence by losing their virginity simultaneously, each intending to bed their respective prom dates at an afterparty. When parents Lisa, Mitchell and Hunter (Leslie Mann, John Cena and Ike Barinholtz) discover the pact via an open chat window, they panic, rushing into a mad caper to try and prevent the ceremonial bedding.
That’s where you’d expect the depth to stop, but the surprise of Blockers is how much more there is. Sam is struggling with the decision to come out of the closet; Julie can’t get Lisa to face her empty-nest fears; Kayla needs Mitchell to stop infantilizing her. Lisa’s regrets over bygone childhood playdates are causing her to recede. Hunter has been ostracized after cheating on his ex-wife, afraid to reveal the truth of his failed marriage.
There’s also a really uproarious bit involving a funnel, a forty of beer and a length of rubber hose. It is a film of contradictions.
Why does it work? First, because the teens are great. Newton can be a bit flat, but Viswanathan and Adlon are stars in the making; they are genuine and more than capable of carrying the film. Mann, who remains one of the most underutilized performers in Hollywood, is an anchor for the grown-up side of the coin, while Barinholtz displays more depth than he’s been afforded previously. Cena still has some rough edges, but can come through from time to time.
It’s also one of the rare occasions where screenplay-by-committee — there are five credited writers — wasn’t a disaster. Most of the slapstick works, but the stakes are there as well. (And don’t mistake Blockers for a film that ultimately denies young women their agency; if anything, the opposite is true.)
Will it win awards? No. But Blockers is a crowd-pleasing and thoughtful comedy — and a reminder not to judge a film by its (admittedly awful) cover.
My Rating: 7/10
Sean Collier is the Associate Editor of Pittsburgh Magazine and a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association. Read more from Sean at pittsburghmagazine.com/afterdark