Throughout the 1980s the teen sex comedy was associated strictly with young men. Even today, movies focused on teenage girls losing their virginity – such as Maggie Carey’s The To-Do List – are rare. Director Kay Cannon’s Blockers, whose title only makes sense if you get it with a giant rooster on top, hopes to change the conversation, but does it really want to be sex positive? Though Cannon did uncredited rewrites on the script (which is attributed to Brian and Jim Kehoe), Blockers ends up salting its own game by focusing on out-of-touch adults who aren’t just struggling to deal with their daughters losing their virginity, but can’t handle the entire millennial generation.
Three teenage girls who have been friends since grade school make a pact to lose their virginity on prom night. Each of their respective parents learn the news and become obsessed with tracking their daughters down and convincing them to remain chaste.
Blockers is a film that could have benefited from a change of perspective. The audience is introduced to little Julie, Sam, and Kayla as children who eventually all morph into beautiful, seemingly confident teenage girls. Julie (Kathryn Newton) has just been accepted to UCLA and has a loving relationship with her boyfriend; Kayla (Geraldine Viswanathan) is an athlete and is the crass friend; and sensitive Sam (Gideon Adlon) is conflicted about her sexuality. All of the girls have different reasons for wanting to have sex, from being in love, to wanting it “over and done with,” to being downright uninterested because of how virginity loss is often attributed to heterosexual relationships. But the film isn’t interested in telling their story and how they grapple to be autonomous in the wake of their parents’ insane boundary crossing.
The film is instead a typical high-concept comedy about adults trying to “blend in” with the teens today. Leslie Mann, John Cena, and Ike Barinholtz are the adults at the center of Blockers whose personalities are easily deduced if you’ve watched any of their previous features. Mann’s Lisa is high-strung and only sees her daughter as a reflection of herself; Cena’s Mitchell is overly sensitive yet incredibly strong; and Barinholtz is the absentee screw-up of a father. They grapple with deciphering emoji speak, discuss their identity in the wake of their daughters leaving for college, and essentially cross off every box in the “soon-to-be empty nesters” handbook for features like this. All three have honed their shtick appropriately. Cena’s acting is getting better, though his characters remain a thinly veiled take on his own persona. Barinholtz, surprisingly, is the most empathetic of the group, actually understanding the girls better than the other parents. It’s actually irritating how his one moment of clarity is immediately underscored by Mann’s irritating yammering.
Much of the runtime is made up of the parents going to various places, getting into hijinks, and moving to the next location. Occasionally there will be some gross-out humor, whether it’s “butt-chugging” or walking in on a couple’s sex games (said couple being played by a highly game Gary Cole and Gina Gershon). Since teens will automatically be shut out by Blockers‘ rating it’s unclear why the script goes for such American Pie level humor. Does one really need to see shots of someone’s testicles being squeezed? Or some very misplaced penis shots?
This back-and-forth leads to a frustrating experience because the girls’ story is infinitely more fascinating than their parents, maybe because teen sex comedies about women remain so rare. You want the three to have sex purely to spite their parents considering how inappropriate the three presumed adults are. All three of the actresses at the center are fantastic, particularly Viswanathan as Kayla. With looks and talent that resembles Maya Rudolph, Viswanathan’s lines are Blockers‘ highlight.
Because movies don’t tend to discuss lesbian virginity loss, Adlon’s storyline seems the freshest of the three girls. Her sweet nature and “will they/won’t they” crush on a fellow girl (Ramona Young) is endearing and goes a long way towards making you want these girls to succeed in their quest. Newton, to her credit, is solid, but her character is the most milquetoast of the trio. Her story is so familiar it’s no surprise her room has a Sixteen Candles poster displayed. (And there’s a vomit scene here that rivals another ’80s gem, Stand By Me.) Other scene stealers include Miles Robbins as Kayla’s manbun-rocking date, and Jimmy Bellinger as Chad.
Blockers is what you show your parents to help them get over the fact that you lost your virginity all those years ago. It’s a feature aimed at appeasing adults more than the teens it should be aimed at. When the kids are on-screen it’s a fiercely hilarious ’80s throwback. When it’s not….just close your eyes and think of England.