Blockers is a strange one. An avowedly dumb movie that’s actually a lot smarter than it will have you believe, packs a frightfully regressive plot unashamed to bandy about it’s woke credentials.
If this sounds like a deeper level of analysis than would necessarily be invited by a film where John Cena chugs beer with his… never mind, then it’s only because Blockers is not content with being that dime-a-dozen flick that you’d gladly see if you hadn’t just seen that same movie on Netflix.
Straight out of a different era, over-protective parents played by the always excellent Leslie Mann together with John Cena, who is ably developing his comic chops, become hell-bent on stopping their teenage daughters (Kathryn Newton and Geraldine Viswanathan respectively) from following through on a prom-night pact to lose their virginity. A largely absent dad, played by Ike Barinholtz, joins the fray in pursuit of his own daughter (Gideon Adlon), though under somewhat different circumstances.
Yes this sounds like a terrible thing to do and is all the more blatant for being contrasted with the refreshingly frank conversations and attitudes the school leavers, absent their parents, impart regarding their sex lives and else. Whether or not the premise as executed is problematic or not partly comes down to one hilarious scene where the parents are explicitly told off by a contemporary who dramatically underlines the awful double standard each of the main players are happy to entrench. In response, Mann, in a bout of whimsically mirthful charm that could only come from Leslie Mann, exclaims that she’ll go and solve society’s problems tomorrow, but right now she’s focused on her daughter.
It’s a wry moment that both acknowledges the thorny crux of the film’s conceit and attempts to dismiss the issue by admitting that these parents, as attentive as they are, are not actually great parents, which is why it is so satisfying to see the cringing, laugh-a-minute hoops they have to jump through to even find their children.
One sequence involving a break-in and a classic inversion of horror tropes is a stand-out, as are any where Cena gets to revel in the screenplay’s physical comedy. Packing an enviable screen presence, the professional wrestler turned actor, channelling the types of idiosyncrasies perfected by Dwayne Johnson in the likes of Jumanji or Central Intelligence, is ideally cast as the overly-sensitive, tear-prone dad. Whatever he does next, it will fairly have audiences excited.
Cena’s interactions with Viswanathan, who plays his daughter, are above and beyond Blockers’ most heart-warming and hilarious dynamic and a natural product of pairing the two best performances in the film. Newton is also one to watch, faring ably with a heft more screen time than she got in Three Billboards. Barinholtz and Adlon carry off the tenser, somewhat bittersweet side of proceedings, without which Blockers might regretfully have relied too heavily on it’s cruder material.
Packing quite a deal of fun and a few promising breakouts, Blockers is a none too shabby night at the cinema.
Blockers is in cinemas now