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‘Blockers’ Brings Sincerity to a Cringy, Tired Premise

April 6, 2018

Kay Cannon’s (Pitch Perfect, New Girl) “Blockers” is a tale as old as time. A team of parents work tirelessly to prevent their daughters–and it’s always daughters–from having sex, from making “the biggest mistake of her life,” says Lisa Decker (Leslie Mann), Julie’s (Kathryne Newton) eternally projecting single mother.

The film follows Decker, Hunter (Ike Barinholtz), and Mitchell (John Cena) on their quest to cock block their daughters on prom night. They crash the prom, they visit the obligatory teen party of debauchery, and there’s even something of a car chase. The premise is old as dirty, but the delightfully stupid nature of the events manage to keep the material entertaining, if crude and unrealistic.

The problem with comedies like these is that the script has to push seemingly reasonable people to the absolute brink of madness in order to justify the shenanigans at play. Nobody acts like this. Nobody tries to run their daughter’s limo off the road in a strange attempt to stop her from having sex by literally endangering her life.

Perhaps the dads in the audience will delight in Mitchell’s antics, maybe they’ve always fantasized about hurling their daughter’s stoner boyfriend into a wall. But it seems difficult in 2018 to swallow this material without a little bit of pause.

That’s why it’s so refreshing that the movie has a good head on its shoulders and a self awareness about the extreme stupidity and banality of the premise. Every parent outside of the blockers questions their actions and their motives. Hunter’s role is often the voice of reason, and later Mitchell’s wife Marcie (Sarayu Blue) stops the film to lecture Decker about feminism and her daughter’s bodily autonomy.

This speaks to the progressiveness of the film that audiences won’t expect. Sam (Gideon Adlon), one of the three daughters in the sex-pact, is revealed to be gay early on, and the mistake that her father is trying to prevent isn’t sex, but rather compromising on her sexuality for a boy.

Mitchell checks Hunter’s racism about Asian women. Sex is there to be both funny and sensual, feared and celebrated. It becomes clear early on that Decker’s attempts to block her daughter aren’t motivated by an abstinence only mindset, but by a cynical projection: she’s afraid of losing her daughter to UCLA. And when the time comes, each of the parents has to learn a unique lesson pertaining to their daughters and those daughters’ autonomy.

In a lot of ways, the kids’ prom night is a much more enjoyable story than the shenanigans of the parents, who often feel like an unwanted intrusion. The girls are funny, driven, and determined and their anxieties about sex are relatable without being cliche.

Perhaps the surprisingly sophisticated insights into sex and coming-of-age are a result of the woman director. Or maybe society has moved on from this premise, and now seeks only to reshape it to fit our pro-sex, pro-girl, and pro-agency views.

“Blockers” comes to a theater near you on April 6th.

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