Kay Cannon is a writer responsible for some of the best episodes of 30 Rock. She created and wrote Netflix’s criminally underrated Girlboss and the wildly popular Pitch Perfect movies. She’s broken all kinds of glass ceilings, and she consistently turns in good work, but she’s never directed before. How does her directorial debut, Blockers stand up to the rest of her resume?
Quite well. In fact, it’s probably her best work to date.
Lisa, Hunter, and Mitchell are three parents who have known each other for years but have lost touch. As their three respective daughters are going out to their senior prom, they discover that their daughters have seemingly made a pact to lose their virginities on prom night. So what would any parent do? Block ‘em.
This is a big, broad comedy. Many of the funniest moments of this movie are teased in the advertising, but that’s not why you should go. It has some tricks up its sleeve. You should go expecting to laugh, but also to think. It balances nuanced, tender moments with big laughs in a way that doesn’t normally succeed this well. Of course, it’s more about the parents –– adults accepting their mortality and where their lives will end up after their kids go away to college. But it’s also focused on this friendship, and how friendships as an adult can be just as weird as those we have when we’re young. There are emotional scenes in the third act of this movie that truly make the whole thing more than it was.
Leslie Mann, Ike Barinholtz, and John Cena are very funny together, demonstrating surprising comedic chemistry. This might be the best we’ve ever seen Mann. So often in movies, they don’t know what to do with her. She often plays the shrill, loony woman, and here she has great moments of Lucille Ball-esque physical comedy, and yet still comes off as relatable and human. Barinholtz, whom I don’t normally like, handles the more challenging moments in this film with surprising ease. Cena also continues to prove himself to be quite talented in comedy. Their characters are equally uptight and equally oblivious to the bigger conversation at hand.
The truly remarkable thing about Blockers is Cannon herself. Had this been directed by anyone else, this silly premise could have been treated in a way that does not transcend the banality of the material. Cannon makes these three teen girls feel like real people. All virtually unknown actresses, Kathryn Newton, Geraldine Viswanathan, and Gideon Adlon are absolutely terrific. Viswanathan, in particular, steals the show. She’s hilarious, she’s got a big personality, and I feel like she’s going to go on to do great things.
This is a film that doesn’t condescend to these girls. Cannon is young enough to remember what it was like to be a teenager and creates a film in which the young girls stand a chance at not regretting their first sexual experiences. The film is feminist and sex-positive as can be. There’s a subplot involving a young LGBT character’s coming out, which is very unexpected in a movie like this, and it’s treated warmly and with surprising sensitivity.
It’s a raunchy, R-rated comedy that’s very aware of the age it lives in, but it still takes risks. Is it a perfect comedy film? Absolutely not, but it certainly does more right than wrong. It hooks the big laughs, misses a couple, but also gives you a bit to think about afterward.