By Kim Hughes
Watching the new comedy Blockers is a bit like watching squirrels at a feeding station in the backyard: it starts out super-cute and engaging but after a while all that incessant zigzagging motion just becomes exhausting to follow.
The premise is interesting albeit in an icky, TMI sort of way.
Lifelong besties Julie, Kayla, and Sam (Kathryn Newton, Geraldine Viswanathan, and Gideon Adlon) make a pact to lose their virginity on prom night, each for slightly different reasons. When their loving but meddling parental units (Leslie Mann, John Cena, and Ike Barinholtz, respectively) get wind of the scheme, they set off on a quixotic quest to intervene. Well, Mann and Cena’s characters decide to intervene while Barinholtz — the outlier — mostly tags along as rubbernecker-slash-emoji interpreter. Because kids these days!
As the night progresses towards its (ahem) climax, the antics on both sides of the divide become ever more madcap: vertical car wrecks, gross-out drinking games, group vomiting, wildly inappropriate interference in other people’s intimacy, and so on. Maybe it was the crowd I was with, but the laughs were far fewer and less intense than you’d expect with this kind of outrageous physical comedy. I mean, naked testicles get crunched. That’s hilarious… right? (*Shakes head grimly*)
More sober and progressive discussions about female self-determination, the normalcy of lesbianism, and the importance of exploring both sides of every dispute ground the film though they’re dragged down by some regrettable clichés. The dude with the man-bun is a bit of a dick? You don’t say. At least we get sex from the perspective of the girls.
The parental leads are seriously watchable (especially Mann who could recite the phone book and be quirkily endearing). And there’s enough visual zest to suggest that first-time director Kay Cannon — writer of the aptly named Pitch Perfect films —is one to watch. But in the end, Blockers delivers less than the sum of its considerable parts.
Blockers. Directed by Kay Cannon. Starring Leslie Mann, John Cena, and Ike Barinholtz. Opens wide April 6.