Plain, Simple Tom reviews . . . “Blockers” (2018)

Kay Cannon’s directorial debut Blockers is about three teenage girls Julie, Kayla and Sam (Kathryn Newton, Geraldine Viswanathan and Gideon Adlon) who, having finished high school, make a pact with each other to lose their virginities on prom night, before venturing out into the big wide world. But when their overprotective parents (Leslie Mann, John Cena and Ike Barinholtz) catch wind of the plan, they make it their mission to “save them” from making what they believe to be a huge, risky mistake.

Rather than being your typical outrageous, gross-out cinema comedy that you’d expect from a film of this nature (this ain’t no reverse American Pie), Blockers does its best to be as warm and as good natured as possible, celebrating the bonds that parents have with their kids and how they hould be trusted to make their own choices or mistakes. Instead of caricatures, the filmmakers avoid the ” wacky girls go wild” trap and show the central trio as sensible young women with their heads screwed on pretty tight, even though they still spout some comedic lines and try to embark on a few hijinks; in Blockers, it’s the parents who are clearly the most childish as they blindly try to save these “damsels in distress”, even though there’s clearly no need. It’s a valiant attempt to show how complex teenage girls can be and in the film, the trio are different and go through their own journeys: Julie strives for the perfect first time with her long-term boyfriend and worries about telling her mother that she’s moving to L.A., Kayla joins in the sex pact with a guy she barely knows and has to cope with her father’s overprotectiveness, and Sam hides the fact that she’s gay.

But these good intentions have their downside because, due to the many sentimental moments and scenes of extended heart-to-hearts, the film ends up being far too slow, serious and uneventful. In the run-up to the main “predicament”, the film’s writing is a bit troublesome as the dialogue comes across as forced and although it doesn’t become too overbearing, the writing is a bit too syrupy and laboured, also taking too much time to delve into the action. This problem recurs in the final act as the climax includes several heart-to-heart conversations that, while well-intentioned, are quite the struggle to get through because they’re so serious and unimpactful.

As a result of the film’s insistence on being touching and meaningful, the comedy is in relatively short supply and there aren’t nearly enough standout moments or hilarious dialogue to make the film stand out against other modern comedy films. I can see why the filmmakers didn’t want the film to be a typical outrageous comedy with all the obvious manic hijinks but with this film, I wanted to see a bit more of that because as it stands, Blockers is too tame and it doesn’t take many risks. I would say that the film comes up short in the comedy stakes and although I managed a few smiles, the film was regrettably not funny enough and it pales in comparison to some other recent comedic features like Girls Trip and Game Night, which is a shame because I recently became aware of Kay Cannon’s comedic talent after enjoying the unfairly criticized Girlboss, so maybe this film would have benefited from having Cannon pen the script.

The actors of Blockers are a fine, up-for-a-laugh bunch and in particular, John Cena has fun as the overprotective, overemotional mountain of a father, not afraid to cut loose and goof around with the material, and Ike Barinholtz is right at home as the wildcard of the group, the divorced dad who wants the kids to have fun and who instinctively knows his daughter’s big secret, showing some hidden depth while of course participating in the crazy shenanigans. And as mentioned before, the three girls at the centre, Kathryn Newton, Geraldine Viswanathan and Gideon Adlon, are likeable, supportive and funny and they fit into the film nicely.

Yes, there are a TON of selfies taken in this film!

Blockers is a good natured film with some deep, sensible characters and a nice cast but it comes up short in the comedy stakes and is too slow, low-energy and uneventful.

★ ★ ★

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