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Courtesy of Universal Pictures

March 21, 2018

Blockers is the New Sex Comedy for this Generation

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It was hard to hear a character’s response after a joke had been cracked during Blockers. The close to two-hour runtime was filled with laugh after laugh  which was unexpected, given the film’s old-fashioned premise of sex and its relation to women. However, after its screening at South by Southwest Film Festival and the positive response it received, it is no surprise that Kay Cannon’s (who wrote Pitch Perfect and several episodes of NBC’s 30 Rock) film solidified itself as an effortless comedy, bringing laughs as easily as Superbad or 21 Jump Street. The only thing different about this film is its attribution of raunchy comedy to women, a recent turn that has been explored in comedies such as Bridesmaids, Trainwreck, and Girls Trip.

Blockers follows three parents’ (played by Leslie Mann, John Cena, and Ike Barinholtz) desperate attempts to prevent their teenage daughters (played by Kathryn Newton, Geraldine Viswanathan, and Gideon Adlon) from losing their virginity on prom night. Although I had assumed the movie would be another slapstick comedy reminiscent of Adam Sandler movies —  cashing in on sex jokes, gross gags focusing on bodily fluids, and making fun of the gap between millennials and their parents in over-the-top ways — Blockers instead explored the pivotal growth of children and how their parents cope with letting their children grow up with one of the most sex-positive attitudes I have seen in modern comedies.

The decision to have sex on Prom Night is not something that the three girls are indecisive on throughout the film. Instead, Julie (Newton) and Kayla (Viswanathan) nonchalantly decide that they will sleep with someone on prom night, showcasing that for these girls, their virginity does not carry as much weight for them as it did for their parents. After the three leave for prom, Lisa (Mann) and Mitchell (Cena) stumble upon text messages from a group chat their daughters are in. Hunter (Barinholtz), the sleazier of the three, guides them through a dragged-out and predictable scene where the three attempt to decipher a whole conversation carried out in emojis, an inaccurate preconceived idea of teenagers. Hunter, the seemingly most irresponsible due to his adultery and his negligence of his daughter, is the only parent that is not plagued by fears of his daughter growing up and abandoning him the majority of the film: he does not care if his daughter has sex, as long as she is not doing it to convince herself that she is not a lesbian. He wants to prevent Mitchell and Lisa from ruining his daughter’s night and follows along with their shenanigans.

The three travel from party to party, attempting to find their daughters and getting into hilarious hijinks that leave the audience laughing. Given how self-assured the three girls are of what they want, the movie pits the audience against the parents; they have favorable personalities thanks to the acting chops demonstrated by all three, and the audience is aware that they only want the best for their children. However, what they think is best may not be the reality of things, an idea that is shared by other adults in the film. When confronted with Mitchell’s wife, they are chided by her. She states that what the three are doing is ridiculous and that women should not be tied to an old-fashioned idea of virginity and the weight it carries, even berating Lisa for siding with the two men.

The message Blockers delivers rings out various times in the film, causing it to become heavy-handed. Whenever a new character was introduced to the group, I wondered if they would once again advice the three on being sex-positive. However, as a whole, the message is one that has been missing from many narratives concerning teenage girls.

I am not sure when the last time female sexuality was explored on a movie screen for anything other than laughs, especially regarding the sexuality of teenage girls. Blockers displays conflicting ideas with regards to sexuality: all three of the parents agree that their children should have the freedom to have sex whenever they please, while using protection, but seem to agree that having sex in high school is too early. They face opposition everywhere they go, but their daughters are unapologetic in what they want.

Kayla, the student athlete, is firm and sure of what she wants and is not afraid to change her mind. When she decides not to have sex, her date easily respects her wishes and they venture onto different activities. When her father throws her date against a wall due to his protectiveness, she is offended that he does not trust her enough to make her own choices regarding her body, despite growing up being taught to respect herself.

Sam (Adlon), a nerdy girl with an interest in cosplay, struggles with her sexuality throughout the film and is pressured into the sex pact under the guise that her friends will forget about her if she does not do something impactful with them. She shoots longing gazes to Angelica (Ramona Young), while dreamy music plays. Sam eventually accepts the fact that she is a lesbian and, with help from Hunter, is able to come out to her friends and make a move on Angelica. The inclusion of a LGBTQ teenager in a sex comedy that was not made fun of for their sexuality was one of my favorite parts of this movie.

Julie, the preppier of the bunch, finds herself conflicted with gaining independence. As the daughter of a single mother, Julie has become suffocated by her mother and the expectations placed on her. Losing her virginity is seen as a step towards independence for Julie. It is a choice that she makes herself, without consulting her mother, and is her first step towards “womanhood.” Although Hunter and Mitchell are also in cahoots with Lisa to stop their daughters from having sex, it seems as if Julie and Leslie’s relationship holds the most weight. The two have spent their whole lives together, without another parent taking up responsibility, and share a deep bond. The night is over once Lisa accepts the fact that Julie will have sex with her boyfriend and that she is a grown-up, free to pursue her own dreams.

Blockers made me laugh and made me reminisce on my own relationship with my parents. It features a blend between raunchy humor and heartfelt moments, and the characters in the film, both teenagers and parents, are extremely likable. There were gags that ran on for too long and times where it played into what I expected it to be like, but overall Blockers is an enjoyable movie to watch and laugh along to.

Elia Morelos is a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at egm57@cornell.edu.