Arriving on the heels of a decade of better-than-expected American teen sex comedies such as the Bad Neighbours films and Superbad, Kay Cannon's Blockers may be the most surprisingly resonant and heartfelt of these offerings in quite some time.
Leslie Mann, Ike Barinholtz and John Cena have a strange but appealing chemistry as three parents who attempt to run interference after they discover their teenage daughters have constructed a "sex pact" to lose their virginity on prom night.
From there, Blockers sticks to the tried and true structure of the "one wild night" narrative that leads to all sorts of high jinks as the parents chase their children from one party to the next.
But Blockers manages to stand out by weaving elements of a raunchy, R-rated knee-slapper into a poignant coming-of-age story. The three leads each capture a recognisable trait of parents struggling to come to terms with their children's own blossoming independence, in relatable and often cringeworthy ways.
Mann plays her part as a reflection on her roles in various Judd Apatow vehicles, while Cena sends up his wrestler-turned-actor image in several laugh-out-loud sequences. Most notably, Barinholtz twists his deadbeat dad into something damaged and heartbreaking, an impressive feat for a high-wire sex comedy.
What really sets Blockers apart, however, is the attention and care paid to the three daughters. Wonderfully performed by Kathryn Newton, Ramona Young and Geraldine Viswanathan (in what is sure to be a star-making turn), the three daughters are unique, layered depictions of young women discovering their identities that are never reduced to tired stereotypes that male-oriented versions of these stories too easily fall into.
This is surely down to the direction of Cannon, who swerves away from the male gaze at every opportunity. By giving the parents and the kids equal weight in the story, what could be a bog-standard sex comedy turns into something that could be legitimately moving for some audiences.
If it wasn't for the more gleefully, gratuitously dirty sequences (of which there are many) I'd almost suggest this was one for the whole family to watch. Maybe.
Leslie Mann, John Cena, Ike Barinholtz
R16 (Nudity, drug use, offensive language & sexual themes)
Well-written characters elevates Blockers above the standard teen sex comedy fare into something hilarious and insightful.