‘Blockers’ Crashes Prom With Lots of Raunchy Antics
“Blockers” wants to use idiocy to make a decent point. At its heart (which is in the right place), it deals with the clash between progressive sexual values and old fashioned Puritanism. The question is posed: Should a group of parents block their teenage daughters from having sex on prom night? It arrives at its answer by deciding to pit what amounts to a group of idiots against each other. We can agree with the film’s philosophy, but at times you wish nobody in this movie would engage in intercourse for risk of reproduction. The teenagers lack wit, the adults lack brains, and the movie lazily goes for cheap laughs. Sex can be hilarious, but “Blockers” prefers vomit to a good dirty joke.
When high school senior Julie (Kathryn Newton) suddenly decides she wants to lose her virginity on prom night, her best friends Sam (Gideon Adlon) and Kayla (Geraldine Viswanathan) decide they want to join in and do the same with their own dates. The girls come from seemingly tidy suburban homes. Julie’s mother, Lisa (Leslie Mann) is ultra-clingy to a demented degree, she dreads the idea of Julie even considering going to out of state college. Kayla’s father, Mitchell (John Cena) is a big, clueless alpha male who can’t comprehend modern hairstyles or emojis. The most colorful of the bunch is Sam’s father, Hunter (Ike Barinholtz), who prides himself on being cool and up to date. The big night comes and the girls are off with their dates and meticulous plan. But when the three parents accidentally come across Julie’s open laptop and messenger app, they decipher the emoji codes being sent and realize what the girls plan to do. Immediately they set about to track down their horny offspring and block the deflowering.
“Blockers” is a case where the movie has an interesting, albeit creepy, premise but reduces it to the most bare gross-out humor. Some critics are giving it pass because its main characters are high school girls, as opposed to the usual male line up, and while this is commendable, it deserved a funnier, stronger approach. It lacks the whacky charm of “American Pie” or even the wild freedom of “Bridesmaids.” First there are the teenagers, who are written with a vapidity that’s almost embarrassing. The girls talk like empty-headed cartoons of real high schoolers, blabbering lines like, “I’m having sex!” When Sam and Kayla ask Julie why make the move now, the best the writers can give her is, “I dunno, it’s prom night, it’s kinda special.” Like Musketeers the other two reply, “I’m in!” Movies like this usually work when it turns out the kids are smarter than the adults, but in “Blockers” the adults are at about the same level as their children, and the jokes are just as flat. One problem with the humor is that it tries to be obvious, like someone trying too hard to be funny. For example in one scene Sam’s stepfather tries to explain the basics of high school friendships, mentioning that he once convinced his friend to enlist on a dare, then adding, “he ended up serving in the Gulf War…he didn’t come back.” “Blockers” never tries to find real humor in the teens’ own anxieties or insecurities about sex, reducing everything to flat one liners (“I don’t think we get to have anal the first time”).
Then there is the fine art of toilet humor. Using bodily fluids and orifices to get a laugh requires a special sort of tact which this movie lacks. Director Kay Cannon forgets that it’s not about showing someone puking. It’s about how you show it, the food poisoning scene in “Bridesmaids” being a perfect example. In “Blockers” everything is kind of just thrown on the screen. The kids spontaneously vomit in their prom limo, inspiring the driver to suddenly do the same. The parents make their way to a prom after party, only to have to prove they are not cops by forcing Mitchell to endure a “butt chug” challenge. When the cops arrive everyone runs and, well, you don’t want to know what the stress of the moment does to the funnel in Cena’s rectum. Cannon is simply clumsy in staging funny innuendo. One scene that starts off as a great romp involves Mitchell and Hunter sneaking into a house to get an address, only to find a couple playing a nude form of hide and seek. Mitchell is eventually caught in a situation where he has to grab the husband’s nether regions to pass for his wife and not arouse suspicion. Funny enough, but Cannon clumsily throws in a close up of Cena getting a hand full of scrotum cut in a way where the raunchy humor is lost.
So obsessed is the movie with its gags that it loses a sense of build-up. By the end we don’t care if the girls have sex or not, the adults are so stupid we’re glad these kids are getting out of the house. To be fair there are some moments of decent humor. Mitchell gives his daughter a knife before getting into the limo (“strike forward into the crotch, twist, pull out”). There are also some funny jabs at the whole man bun hair trend. The scene where the parents figure out how teens text sexual chatter via emojis is hilarious, so much so that if the movie had veered for more satire or commentary it would have worked better.
“Blockers” ends with a message most of the audience surely agrees with: Young adults have the right to make their own choices regarding sex. But the filmmakers could have also chosen to tell a better raunchy yarn, because even butt chugs can indeed be funny, if you know how to plug them in.
“Blockers” opens April 6 in theaters nationwide.