Cinema Dispatch: Blockers

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Blockers and all the images you see in this review are owned by Universal Pictures

Directed by Kay Cannon

Blockers?  Seriously?  We’re all PRETENDING that’s what the movie is called!?  IT’S COCK BLOCKERS!  They’re not even being subtle about it considering THEY PUT A ROOSTER ON THE POSTER!!  I don’t know why, but the first time I saw the trailer and the subsequent poster for it, this one aspect REALLY annoyed me and I ended up feeling rather down on the trailer overall.  What, John Cena’s gonna try to sell us on him being a comedy star by shoving stuff up his butt?  Been there, done that!  Sure they had Leslie Mann and Ike Barinholtz on hand to steady the ship and keep things on track, but I didn’t really see much to this movie that I hadn’t seen in a hundred other comedies before it.  In the last week or so however, the early buzz for this movie started to get REALLY strong and people were praising it all over the place!  Is there a chance that I was WRONG about this movie!?  BUT THAT’S IMPOSSIBLE!!  You all come to read this because I’m ALWAYS RIGHT ABOUT EVERYTHING, right!?  Well I guess we’ll have to see if my skills at predicting movies based on trailers are top notch or if Universal was merely doing a bad job of selling a gem they had on their hands.  Does this film live up to the hype, or was I right all along!?  Let’s find out!!

Kayla, Julie, and Sam (Geraldine Viswanathan, Kathryn Newton, and Gideon Adlon) are the high school seniors who are ready to finally graduate but not before going to their prom which is the biggest day in a young teenager’s life, at least according to this movie.  I don’t know about you, but I brought a book to my prom instead of a date, so I guess I have trouble relating to that, but it’s made clear that this is a special night to THEM and they even decided that that will be the night they’ll lose their virginity!  One wants to do it then so that it would be a perfect night, another figures it’s as good a time as any to get it over with, and the last one is a closeted lesbian or wants to get in on the bonding experience and at least TRY to see if she’s maybe into the opposite sex before committing to the queer identity.  Too bad that their parents get wind of this idea and have decided to… block them from getting laid that night!  The parents in question include Kayla’s dad Mitchell (John Cena) as the super serious and incredibly dorky one, Julie’s mother Lisa (Leslie Mann) who’s a single parent and is afraid that her daughter is making a terrible mistake, and Sam’s father Hunter (Ike Barinholtz) who has his own reasons for going along with this that include wanting to reconnect with his daughter since he’s been more or less absent since he divorced her mother.  Will they be successful in stopping their daughters from having either the best night or the worst night of their lives?  What other issues have they all been hiding from that will be forced to the forefront in this wacky adventure?  Can John Cena properly atone for being in the god awful Mel Gibson movie!?

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“This is MUCH better than doing Daddy’s Home 3!!”

Remember when so many people were praising Game Night for being such a great and original comedy?  Yeah, I was one of the few people out there who was rather nonplussed about it thinking it was a rather mediocre film with a convoluted and not terribly engaging plot, so when people started heaping HUGE amount of praise on this film while I was sitting there thinking that the trailers weren’t that great and how John Cena is probably too unpolished as a comedic actor to carry a film like this right now, I was already preparing to get my grumpy face back on and be the iconoclastic sour puss while everyone else was having a great time.  I’m am absolutely THRILLED to let you all know that that is NOT the case as this is a WONDERFULLY made film that might be one of the better comedies of the last few years.  Strong praise to be sure and I might have to amend my thoughts a bit in hindsight, but this is easily the funniest comedy I’ve seen so far in 2018 and has a decent chance of ending up on my top ten list at the end of the year!

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You’re certainly okay with ME, Mr. Cena!

The biggest selling point here is the trio of actors they got to play the parents (our Three Stooges if you will) who are all phenomenal in their roles and give some of the best performances of their careers.  Okay, MAYBE John Cena is STILL a tad bit green for a role like this, especially when compared to veterans like Leslie Mann and Ike Barinholtz, but even if he’s not quite THERE yet he’s still uproariously funny with the material that he’s given.  I’d be more wary about him showing up in future movies that aren’t as well written as this one is but at least in here the filmmakers knew exactly how to use him and even where to pull back on his character to work best with Cena’s strengths.  He has his emotional moments, but he also has the least… let’s say NUANCED character arc in the story as his concerns are rather basic and his daughter doesn’t really have anything to work out for herself; basically boiling down to a dad who’s scared of his daughter losing her virginity for whatever reason and the daughter having to explain why he shouldn’t be that way.  By the end of the movie in fact, Geraldine Viswanathan is pretty much carrying him along through the big emotional confrontation scene so that he doesn’t over extend himself and risk cheapening the moment.  Now Leslie Mann and Ike Barinholtz on the other hand, they have GREAT stories and arcs but don’t require as much hand holding which makes them stand out from John Cena even if they aren’t given the BIG BROAD jokes that he has in the script.  In particular, Ike Barinholtz is almost a revelation in here as I had never really held him up in the HIGHEST of esteem before (his peak for me was the Neighbors movies) but he shows a surprising amount of depth and nuance to what would normally be another douchebag frat boy man child role (the cool dad who is anything but).  It gets pretty emotional when he ends up confronting his daughter about his own failures as a father and how he wants to do better by her so that they can have an actual relationship, and that scene ended up being the most memorable for me out of the whole movie; even more so than Cena butt chugging.  Leslie Mann’s storyline isn’t quite as interesting as her issues with letting her daughter live her own life are played up as a bit more goofy than when Ike Barinholtz eventually breaks down and drops his facade, but  she has so much experience with roles like this that she can knock it out of the park in her sleep.  She’s always been underrated as a comedic actor in my opinion and I’m glad that she’s in a movie like this that will surely be a big enough hit kick her career up a few notches which will hopefully lead to more prominent roles for her very soon.  Just whatever they do, they SHOULD NOT make a sequel.  I think they’re great in this, but if they try to FORCE that chemistry again, it’ll be worse than… well pretty much EVERY comedy sequel that was made after the first one was a surprise hit.  Seriously, the number of good comedy sequels is what, six?  MAYBE seven?

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“Faster, you chowder head!  They’re getting away!”     “Why I oughta…”     “I don’t really have room here but should I try to get on the ground and go ‘Woo Woo Woo Woo Woo’?”

Now as funny as it is to watch these three bumble around for the entire movie, there are PLENTY of movies that do that just as well (that Three Stooges movie from the Farrelly Brothers, for one) and isn’t what necessarily will give this film the kind of lasting power that I think its destined to have.  This is a raunchy comedy with gross out humor and lots of sex jokes that doesn’t just have a positive message at the end, but feels genuinely forward thinking and progressive throughout its entire runtime.  Aside from one joke in the middle which I GUESS you could classify as homophobic (involving one character pretty much being forced to touch another dude’s junk), the movie never stoops for the low hanging fruit or swings for the cheap seats.  There’s no doubt that this is an R-Rated movie, mostly for the foul language and sexual innuendo throughout, but rarely has a sex comedy been this hyper focused on female empowerment and their own sexual desires.  Most of the time we get these stories from not just a MALE perspective but a rather toxic one at that where the girl at the end is more of a prize to be earned than a person to share something with, and even THAT can work given the right context (Superbad is a really good examination of that mindset and how reality rarely bears fruit to those fantasies), but it’s refreshing to not just see that story from the other side but to see it from a confident and unashamed point of view.  Really, the only one of the three young women who DOES get a more traditional HERO IS PINING AFTER THEIR ONE TRUE LOVE arc still manages to bring something new to the table as she’s a lesbian and she’s pining after another young woman; a story that we rarely get to see in mainstream cinema, much less in terms of a sex comedy.  The film calls to mind the work of Judd Apatow which MAY not be coincidental considering there are quite a few connections to him here such as Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg who are producers on this as well as his wife Leslie Mann being one of the stars.  Now that alone would make me love this movie as I’ve always been a fan of his works (Knocked Up is one of my favorite comedies of all time), but it manages to be as funny and heartfelt as those films while ALSO not feeling like it’s operating in their shadow as it has its own proud and modern voice which lets it stand on its own and puts other wretched and mean spirited comedies to shame like Fist Fight and Daddy’s Home 2.  Turns out everyone complaining about PC Culture and SNOWFLAKES are just unfunny hacks who resent the rest of the world growing up and leaving them behind!  WHO KNEW!?

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“Fuck the patriarchy and let’s get some dick!”     “As long as consent is clear and enthusiastic between all parties!”     “You know it!”     “hashtag sex positivity!”

As far as flaws, there really isn’t anything that stands out to me as a problem here.  Maybe a bit of pacing issues as our three Blockers travel all over the place in the blink of an eye, but even that’s less of a problem than a useful shortcut in order to keep the energy going.  There are some jokes that I can pick and choose here which fall a bit flat like the aforementioned touching of male genitals (though it’s really aimed more at male insecurity than anything ACTUALLY regarding homosexuality) and this one awkward moment where Kayla is pretty insistent to her date that she WILL have sex with him even if she’s drunk, but even with THAT bit they were smart enough to have the date VERY CLEARLY SAY that he wouldn’t consider that an unimpeachable agreement.  There are a few characters that unfortunately get pushed to the side to make more room for our three stars like Sarayu Blue as Cena’s wife or June Diane Raphael as Barinholtz’s ex along with her new husband played by Hannibal Buress, and I would have liked a few more scenes with them reacting to what The Blockers are doing.  Also, and it might just be ME, but I had a bit of trouble buying that SO many resources were dedicated to after prom parties; whether it’s a lake house filled to the brim with alcohol or even an ENTIRE FLOOR of a hotel that seems to be dedicated to under aged drinking and sex which is something you’d think hotel staff would frown upon.  I mean… who the heck paid for all that!?  Even with the COMBINED income of a class full of seniors, I doubt they could afford to not just rent out like thirty hotel rooms but ALSO acquire enough booze, condoms, and karaoke machines to make the kind of party they’re having there!  Still, even though these issues are certainly NOTICEABLE, they don’t detract enough from the humor, emotion, and sheer momentum with which this movie takes you on this journey and I’d be hard pressed to think of a comedy as CLOSE to flawless as this that we’ve gotten in quite a while.

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Truly the most well-crafted and nuanced comedy of our time!

It’s not gonna be for everyone as there are moments here and there that don’t quite hit home and I do feel that John Cena isn’t gonna appeal to everyone considering how much of a softball role he’s given in this movie, but for the rest of us this is certainly one of the best films you can go out and see right now; ESPECIALLY if you’re looking for a comedy.  Other than Early Man and I GUESS Game Night, have we even GOTTEN any comedies that are the least bit memorable?  Heck, you all probably forgot that The Hurricane Heist came out, didn’t you!?  Yeah, this is the one that we’ll be remembering for a while; the same way we all remember Horrible Bosses, The Hangover, and Bridesmaids, though I like this one WAY better than any of those.  Go check this out at the theater if you have the chance because it really is THAT good and it’s worth supporting genuinely forward thinking movies whenever they’re THIS good.  Now if we can get John Cena to shadow Dwayne Johnson for like a year (watch him work, take notes, and get him his coffee), we might just have another wrestling super star as one of our most popular (and profitable) working actors!  Heck, if he ends up being a good enough student, we might just have the most AMAZING presidential debates of all time!  Hey, Johnson/Cena 2028 couldn’t POSSIBLY be worse than what we’ve got now!

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