SXSW 2018 Review: BLOCKERS

(L to R) JOHN CENA, LESLIE MANN and IKE BARINHOLTZ star in "Blockers," the directorial debut of Kay Cannon (writer of the "Pitch Perfect" series). When three parents discover their daughters' pact to lose their virginity at prom, they launch a covert one-night operation to stop the teens from sealing the deal.

By Mark Saldana

Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)

Since the 1970s, precocious teen boys and horny men have dominated cinema with their wild, raunchy and funny tales of sexual pursuits.  Now that the human race has entered 2018, it is about time that women had a voice in this type of cinema.  Well this year, SXSW gave several female-centric comedies a chance to be seen and heard.  The Headliners category featured  a movie which basically has a story similar to American Pie, but with the teen protagonists being female.  This movie titled Blockers offers the even funnier perspective and reactions of the protagonists’ parents in addition to the exploits of the young women.  This proves to be a winning formula, making Blockers a worthy and progressive new entry in the realm of teenage raunch.

Leslie Mann, Ike Barinholtz, and John Cena star as the stressed out parents of three teenage girls who have decided to lose their virginity on prom night.  Julie Decker (Kathryn Newton) has been involved with her high school boyfriend Austin (Graham Phillips) for some time now and they have decided to take their relationship to a more adult level on the night of prom.  Her athletic friend Kayla (Geraldine Viswanathan) has always had a competitive nature and refuses to be left behind by her friend.  She also decides that she will have sex with her prom date.  The third of the trio, Sam (Gideon Adlon), has secretively struggled with her sexual identity, as she finds herself more attracted to women than men.  Because she worries about the judgment of her best friends, Sam reluctantly joins the sex pact to hide her real orientation.  When a message revealing the plan for the girls’ night finds it way to Julie’s mother Lisa (Leslie Mann), she alerts Kayla’s father Mitchell (John Cena) and Sam’s father Hunter (Ike Barinholtz), and the three of them embark on a crazy night to stop their daughters.

Written by Brian and Jim Kehoe, Blockers very appropriately has a woman at its helm. Director Kay Cannon takes charge of this riotously funny and smart comedy that has plenty of insanely bawdy humor for those who love their comedy that way.  Though the base story material has been tackled in other movies, this one gives women the empowerment to pursue sex on their terms, and offers some intelligent commentary on the sexual double standards between men and women.  Obviously, the unfiltered humor will not appeal to everyone, so if this isn’t one’s mug of beer, then it would best to stay away.  For those who love their comedies a little nasty, this one is a winner.  The movie does have a genuine heart at its center with the parental characters’ love as the driving force and also a huge source of the humor.

Though Leslie Mann and Ike Barinholtz have proven themselves as great comedic actors in plenty of other movies, John Cena probably only had one gut-buster of a comedic turn in Trainwreck prior to this movie.  Well once again, the wrestler-turned-actor shows he’s got impressive comic timing and undeniable charisma in a more demanding role here.  I was definitely impressed with the three teen leads, Kathryn Newton, Geraldine Viswanathan, and Gideon Adlon who all give great performances.  The film also features welcome performances and appearances by Ramona Young, Gina Gershon, Miles Robbins, Gary Cole, June Diane Raphael, and Hannibal Buress.

As I attended screenings at the SXSW film festival,  I noticed that more women directors and writers were taking the stage to present their films.  This made me very happy that they are getting the opportunities to show their work for mass audiences.  I was ecstatic that the producers of Blockers also chose Kay Cannon to direct this comedy.  One thing is to develop a female-centric comedy, but it is another thing to put it in the hands of a woman to bring her perspective and sensibilities to it.  I must applaud the SXSW programmers for taking an even more progressive approach this year and applaud the women who made some great films like this one.


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