While the teen sex comedy Blockers brings on the typical roller-coaster of raunchiness, it somehow registers devilishly with an offbeat, uproarious take on the trials and tribulations of stress-induced parenting and safeguarding the so-called virtues of impressionable daughters from predatory prom dates. With a deft hand, director Kay Cannon (screenwriter for the “Pitch Perfect” trilogy making her directorial debut) and screenwriters Jim and Brian Kehoe (“Overachievers”) hit just the right parental paranoia and hormonal high schooler notes for both parents and teens to grin ear to ear from the outlandish, but perceptive, frivolity.
What makes Cannon’s farce click so effortlessly in nuttiness and naughtiness is the core of the three main leads forming the barrier of curious parental protection. Mitchell (the ubiquitous wrestler-turned-actor John Cena, “Trainwreck”), Lisa (Leslie Mann, “Vacation”) and Hunter (Ike Barinholtz, “Suicide Squad”) are the trio of covert caretakers out to prevent their curious teenage daughters from . . . shall we say . . . “becoming sexually experienced and awakened.” Their misguided goal is to “block” any possibility that their beloved daughters get any frisky action from the girls’ eager suitors on the biggest night of high school: The prom. The premise is undoubtedly rooted in animated slapdash fashion as cockeyed situations and seedy jokes bounce around loosely with chaotic energy. Sure, there are tired elements of sight gags and recycled routines (the obligatory house break-in for one) that figure into the manufactured mayhem. Nevertheless, the intrusive grown-ups versus sexually inquisitive teens scenario is played with a jubilant, cheeky mode.
The plan for the overprotective and muscle-bound Mitchell, smothering and chummy Lisa and carefree and non-confrontational Hunter goes into overdrive when texts reveal Mitchell’s sporty Kayla (Geraldine Viswanathan, “All Out Dysfunktion!”), Lisa’s confident Julie (Kathryn Newton, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”) and Hunter’s bookwormish Sam (Gideon Adlon, “Skin in the Game”) conspiring together to lose their virginity at prom. It’s all hands on deck as the parents race to protect their children from themselves (even though these girls have good heads on their shoulders). And at each stop the insanity ante gets raised further and further . . .
As previously mentioned the on-screen parenting triangle of Cena, Mann and Barinholtz are noteworthy, goofy-minded gold as their comedic chemistry joyfully kicks and aids the wild foolishness. As the doomed daughters determined to undermine their well-intentioned, but frustrating, folks the roguish Newton, Viswanathan and Adlon provide the curiosity, mischievousness and defiant spunk to counter-punch the pesky parents’ bid for intrusiveness. Even the boys — Miles Robbins (“My Friend Dahmer”), Jimmy Bellinger (“Flock of Four”) and Graham Phillips (“Evan Almighty”) — get a moment or two to show what they’re made of. It’s the parents and daughters alike, however, who are distinctively drawn with diverse and off-color personalities, motives and ridiculousness that strangely resonates with the silly proceedings.
Indeed, Blockers is fruitful in its quest to explore the manic angst of parents who fear the worst for their kids and exploratory children who wish to be left to their own devices. The formulaic tug-of-war between experimental youthful femininity at the expense of parents not ready to face their children growing up is oddly touching and observant giving a genre, that oft-times is as crude and off-putting as possible, a well needed shot of adrenaline. Cannon, a television writer and producer as well, shows competency and comfort in mixing together grossout gags (Cena takes the brunt in one) with a poignant parent-daughter dynamic. Some viewers may see Blockers as this era’s version of a feminine-flavored “American Pie” and they would not be all together wrong. Both are, after all, robust romps with boundless, topsy-turvy spirit that refreshingly shows some surprising depth beneath their rollicking ribaldry.