April 2, 2018

CINEMA | 'Blockers' Makes A Progressive Teen Sex Pact

"This slow and unfurious attitude is not helping us."
John Cena Kay Cannon | Blockers

The suggestively titled teen sex pact comedy Blockers is not exactly the film you might expect. Directed by Pitch Perfect franchise writer Kay Cannon, the raunchy film is a surprisingly sex-positive story that avoids the pitfalls of its problematic premise where three parents go on a quest to stop their teenage daughters from losing their virginities on prom night.

Starring a trio of all-star sidekicks from other studio comedies in Leslie Mann, Ike Barinholtz, and John Cena, the usually supporting players take the lead this time for mostly uproarious results. They have a fun, playful yet antagonistic chemistry bonded by their not always positive love for their daughters who are childhood best friends.

I'm not entirely sure Cena is a naturally gifted actor outside of the wrestling ring, but his commitment and willingness to devote himself to character and situational comedy is admirable and works on screen. Mann is suitably able and fun as another variation on her mom character while Barinholtz spews one-liners and jokes as the loser father with the best of them. They make for watchable mismatched pairings.

Young actors Kathryn Newton, Gideon Adlon, and Geraldine Viswanathan co-star respectively as Mann's, Barinholtz's, and Cena's daughters who are a diverse, identifiable trio of real-feeling female friends with their own agencies. The three make a great portrait of young adult friendship in transition that grounds the film's wild party antics. Also, their male counterparts are refreshingly totally irrelevant despite each getting their moments.

Leslie Mann Kathryn Newtona Kay Cannon | Blockers

Viswanathan feels like the breakout star with such a unique, interesting character fully empowered and in charge of herself and her sexuality. In contrast, the awkwardness in Adlon's character seems genuine wrapped in a coming out storyline that manages to avoid stereotypical depictions or any male gaze.

Cannon and her five credited (male) screenwriters, wisely call out and question the inherently sexist premise constantly as characters are baffled by the perceived threat of female sexuality. However, it's clear Cannon, an experienced screenwriter herself, reworked much of the film's story empowered by producers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg to make it not only more progressive and palatable but also, naturally comedic. She firmly makes the adults' actions oriented in their own anxieties about parenthood misdirected into discomfort against young female sexual desire.

What makes Blockers such an endearing studio comedy is its commitment to both entertaining gross-out humour, representing alternative female perspectives, and an honest portrayal of contemporary teenage relationships. It turns sex comedy tropes on their head in fun ways. This is in no doubt thanks to Cannon's keen eye for both authentic characters and jokes rooted in familiarity. It's about as pleasing a film positioning overprotective parents against their sexually mature and responsible teenage daughters could be. It's silly but heartfelt fun.

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