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A refreshingly different point of view

Leslie Mann and Ike Barinholtz in Blockers.

Leslie Mann and Ike Barinholtz in Blockers.

Blockers
4 stars
Director: Kay Cannon
Stars: Leslie Mann, Kathryn Newton, John Cena
Duration: 102 mins
Class: 15
KRS Releasing Ltd

I will confess that the premise of Blockers prompted my default eye-rolling reaction to a film described as a ‘teen sex romp’. Given the history of the Porky’s and American Pie series and the mediocre, repetitive stuff they spawned over the decades, I find my sense of humour isn’t as tickled as the makers behind these films think it should be. And so, I was bracing myself for another 90 minutes of banal, obvious and laddish humour.

However, I judged this offering too rashly. For, Blockers, while containing some predictable moments, tackles its ‘teens seeking to lose their virginity on prom night’ story from a refreshingly different point of view – a female one. This is not only in terms of its three young protagonists, but also from its director, Kay Cannon, who subtly turns the tables on the cliché’s premise, adding a touch of previously untapped maturity to the oftentimes hilarious proceedings.

Julie (Kathryn Newton), Kayla (Geraldine Viswanathan) and Sam (Gideon Adlon) have been friends since kindergarten and have made a pact to each have sex for the first time at their upcoming prom night. Their parents – each in various degrees of marriage/divorce/parenthood – accidentally discover the trio’s nefarious plans and go all out to prevent the deed from being done, with understandably hilarious consequences.

Adds a touch of previously untapped maturity to the oftentimes hilarious proceedings

The more conservative elements of the audience might baulk at the frank approach the film takes to teen sexuality. But it must be noted that, despite the overall rather bawdy tone, it is not taken lightly. The girls are presented as sensible young women who are fully aware of both the physical and emotional significance of this moment, as they explore their burgeoning sexuality while dealing with the end of their high school years and the impending flight from the nest to college and independent lives. 

And so, amid the hilarity, colourful language and graphic scenes (including, yes scenes of drunkenness, vomiting and a rather painful beer chugging contest which gave vent to a particularly exertive eye-roll), the story, written by brothers James and Brian Kehoe, successfully captures the angst any parent would live through at this time.

There are the difficulties in letting go, the traumas associated with the blooming sexuality of their children and the slow, and ultimately painful and joyful realisation, that their babies have developed into smart, young women with their own lives to lead and ready to face the world. 

Equally strong is the characterisation overall. All characters are fully and realistically realised and brought to life by the ensemble cast. Julie has been with her boyfriend for a while and wants this to be truly special (with flowers strewn all over the bed, reminding us of that scene from the classic American Beauty).

In the meantime, she secretly worries about leaving her single mother Lisa (Leslie Mann) when she heads off to college, feeling terribly guilty about breaking the firm bond they have shared throughout her life.

Newton and Mann share a touching chemistry in their scenes together, the latter inviting laughs and empathy from the audience in equal measure.

In the meantime, Mitchell (John Cena) struggles to stifle his over-protective instincts, completely oblivious to the fact his daughter Kayla (a feisty and fun Viswanathan) has become a strong and no-nonsense young woman who doesn’t need him anymore. And kudos to former wrestler Cena for virtually stealing every scene he is in, making the contrast between his tough physique and his fragile emotions a believable one. 

Adlon’s Sam is the quieter and more introverted of the three friends, eager to be a part of their pact yet harbouring a secret crush on someone. Her tumultuous emotions are not helped by the appearance of her estranged father, the loud and oftentimes obnoxious Hunter (Ike Barinholtz).

Unsurprisingly, he is the only one of the parents who has no problem with the girls’ plans, yet still finds himself dragged along Lisa and Mitchell’s wild ride. Surprisingly, he offers some sound advice along the way – both to his fellow parents and to his daughter.

And, ultimately, it’s refreshing that by the end of the night, whether the three girls have gone through with the pact or not is less important than the life-lessons they – and their parents – have learned along the way.

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