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A surprising review of "Blockers"

Jun. 19, 2018
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To be frank, I was fully expecting that this was going to be a scathing review. I planned to see Blockers (dir. Kay Cannon) ironically and out of hate. I hadn’t read any reviews or heard much about the movie other than seeing the trailer. If you are currently in that position and have any interest at all, I would suggest you stop reading and go see the movie before reading. Because if Blockers is anything, it is incredibly surprising. 

To fully understand the kind of mindset I was in when I went to see Blockers, just know that in my Twitter drafts there is a tweet that reads If Blockers doesn’t end with the parents realizing they don’t own their daughters’ bodies than it is incredibly worthless and simply dumb. If that sentiment seems dramatic, it’s because it is, which is why it never spread its wings to become anything other than a draft. But it also holds truth to what I was thinking when YouTube repeatedly forced me to watch the trailer as an ad. The trailer, if you are not familiar, suggests that the movie is about three parents, Mitchell (John Cena), Lisa (Leslie Mann), and Hunter (Ike Barinholtz), who find out their respective teen daughters have a pact to lose their virginities on the night of their senior prom. Mitchell and Lisa are not happy with this information, and even though Hunter tries desperately to talk them out of it, they end up going after their girls to keep their virginities intact. Meanwhile, the three daughters, Julie (Kathryn Newton), Kayla (Geraldine Viswanathan), and Sam (Gideon Adlon) are grappling with their own issues. Kayla is having second thoughts about the sex pact while eating gourmet food infused with drugs that her date Connor (Miles Robbins) is offering her. Sam can’t seem to take her eyes off Angelica (Ramona Young), who is not her date. And Julie just can’t seem to get laid. 

It isn’t clear right away that this is going to be any kind of feminist or progressive movie at all, but it is clear from the beginning it is going to be funny. I was laughing within the first 15 minutes, even though I deeply wanted to dislike the movie. The characters were funny and fairly well-rounded. There were not-incredibly-cringey references to emojis, Ubers, and butt chugging. The soundtrack played multiple Lizzo songs (music by Matteo Messina, music supervisor Tom Wolfe). There was a meta reference to how unbelievably unrealistic the car chase scene was. 

And beyond being funny, Blockers really is a thoughtful, progressive movie. It obviously deals with the stigma sex has for women along with other issues of sexism, double standards, and sexuality, but it ruminates on other topics as well—parenthood, for one, and the difficult situation parents are put in when they want to protect their child but also want them to be able to grow and learn from their mistakes. I also thought it dealt well with a number of underrepresented topics like adult friendship and male emotion. But you don’t find out that it’s going to be a smart, sensitive, forward-thinking movie until you’re a half hour into it. 

That is another strength of the movie; Blockers seems to employ a smart strategy—whether intentionally or not—of drawing in a more conservative crowd of people, only to flip the narrative completely. In the end, all three of the parents realize that their daughters are grown, intelligent women who can make their own decisions, whatever those decisions may be. We also see them, particularly Mitchell, grapple with the double standard about sex for men and women. “Why is sex even bad?” Kayla asks her dad at the end, and he shakes his head. “I don’t know,” he says, inviting the audience to question with him. 

But of course, the movie isn’t perfect. My biggest complaint is that, while the cast is vaguely diverse for big Hollywood movies, the majority of the characters, especially the leading characters, are all white. Blockers is sending a lot of good messages, but it would be great if it could have sent those messages through a more diverse cast. It’s a step in the right direction that Hollywood is producing more progressive, actually funny comedies, but it’s frustrating to see that even a movie like Blockers is still being held back by the overwhelmingly white industry.