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Leslie Mann, Ike Barinholtz and John Cena in Blockers.

Photo Credit: Quantrell D. Colbe/Universal Studios

rating

  • Blockers
  • Directed by Kay Cannon
  • Written by Brian Kehoe, Jim Kehoe
  • Starring John Cena, Leslie Mann and Ike Barinholtz
  • Classification 14A; 102 minutes

Blockers, a teen-sex comedy about helicopter parents trying to stop their daughters from losing their virginity, is the movie that cannot speak its name. Or at least not its full name. Its title is always prefaced by a graphic of a strutting rooster and if you can’t decode that joke, then you are part of the emoji-illiterate oldster generation that the film is gently mocking.

So, yes, apparently there is something more excruciating than the mere thought of your parents having sex … it’s the mere thought of your kids having sex. Blockers’ main source of hilarity is the behaviour of three parents deeply alarmed at the idea that their daughters are aiming to lose their virginity on prom night – a plan they uncover by spying on teen texts. The joke is on them, since the girls in question are a whole lot more savvy than their parents think, and if it sounds like there is some timely social satire in all that, there is.

For all its loud signalling of raunch ahead, Blockers is funnier that you might expect: It’s a reliable laugh machine that features enough jabs at contemporary mores, alongside a discreet social conscience and some successfully female-centric comedy, that it rises above the inevitable chug-and-vomit jokes.

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Lisa (Leslie Mann, overdoing the fluttery mummy in the central parental role) is one of those hyper-engaged single moms who has confused parenting with friendship and doesn’t see that daughter Julie (Kathryn Newton) needs some space as she heads off to university. Since kindergarten, Julie has also been inseparable from her besties, Kayla (Geraldine Viswanathan), a cool biracial chick who is good at sports and science, and the shyer, more bookish Sam (Gideon Adlon). So Lisa is inevitably friends with the other parents, in particular Kayla’s father Mitchell, a best-dad-ever type and sentimental stay-at-home husband – played by John Cena in a successful bit of casting against macho type – to a busy doctor (Sarayu Blue). (The doctor keeps a healthy remove from both her daughter’s life and the action, and enjoys her grandest moment when she tells Lisa and Mitchell to butt out of the girls’ business.)

That business is #sexpact2018. Julie is ready to have sex with her steady boyfriend, and Kayla and Sam reluctantly let themselves get talked into a prom night bid to lose their virginity, too. When Lisa and Mitchell happen upon a stray laptop and discover the girls’ plan, they launch into full tiger-mom mode, while Sam’s nerdy divorced dad (Ike Barinholtz) feels he has to tag along if only to stop them.

It’s the pairing of Mann and Cena with Barinholtz running interference that provides most of the comedy here, and genuine laughter does ensue until the moment Mitchell is forced to undergo a beer enema in a drinking contest to prove himself young enough to crash a party where the girls and their dates could be doing something worse. At that point, everybody but the frat boys in the audience may part company from Blockers, but thankfully it’s a brief lapse. Well, not that brief since it is soon followed by the big throw-up scene and a less-than-funny car chase, but Kay Cannon, a television writer and producer making her directorial debut here, does eventually get things back on track as the parents inevitably learn that the girls can handle themselves.

In that regard, Viswanathan and Miles Robbins as Kayla and her date Connor, a specialist in home baking with narcotics, are the strongest comic pairing: There’s a lovely scene where she informs him they will be having sex later that evening as he plays it disarmingly cool. Note the role reversal: All three girls are treated as worthy and interesting characters who can be trusted to make their own decisions whether it’s about penises or university admission offers. Blockers is a chaotic thing, but also a refreshing one.

Blockers opens April 6

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