Raunchy bro comedies may now be a thing of the past, with the ever-louder demand for Hollywood to evolve both on- and offscreen. Even the Seth Rogen–versus–Zac Efron throwdown Neighbors reconciled with its slightly retrograde nature by letting women run wild in its sororal sequel, Neighbors 2. Blockers, helmed by first-time director Kay Cannon (the woman who wrote and produced the Pitch Perfect movies), gets it right the first time around, proving that a 2018 sex comedy can still be shocking and hilarious while checking all the woke boxes. Though written by two men, Blockers smartly confronts the gendered double standards that have littered the genre for generations, as well as homophobia and other vehicles for predictable jokes. But that doesn’t mean Blockers will pass up the chance to butt-chug and projectile vomit with the rest of them.
At one point in the film’s long wild night, Mitchell (John Cena) finds himself butt-chugging beer from a keg in an effort to — deep breath — stop daughter Kayla (Geraldine Viswanathan) from losing her virginity to a man-bunned hipster teen nicknamed “the Chef” because he’s known for baking goods laced with THC. Mitchell is joined on this mission by fellow “blockers” (that’s cock blockers, if you missed the conspicuous rooster on the poster): single mom Lisa (Leslie Mann), the clingy mother of blonde beauty Julie (Kathryn Newton); and absentee father Hunter (Ike Barinholtz), who’s more blasé than the rest about teen sex until he realizes that his closeted gay daughter, Sam (Gideon Adlon), has hesitatingly agreed to lose her virginity to a boy. Hence the aforementioned butt-chugging, in order to infiltrate a prom afterparty where the parents suspect their daughters may be entering bone zone.
Lose-your-virginity comedies are nothing new, but the American Pies of the world usually involve horny teen boys trying to stick it in anywhere they can, and the journey there is treated like some holy quest. When these girls try to do it, we find their parents racing to cock-block their daughters’ cherry-poppin’ pact as if they’re on a mission to stop the apocalypse. They’re no Eugene Levy, flipping through porno magazines with his son, studying the female anatomy together. There’s an obvious double standard here, which Mitchell’s wife (Sarayu Blue) points out, swooping in as the voice of reason to note that society is still uncomfortable when women have autonomy over their bodies. She’s the progressive thesis of the film, the one who makes the characters confront their liberal values versus their actions. Lisa says that she and her daughter march for women’s rights together — but the film asks what those ideals actually look like in the families’ everyday lives. The lecture, of course, doesn’t stop the rest of the parents from Operation Cock-Blocking. “I’ll deal with society tomorrow!” Lisa yells.
It all begins when Lisa stumbles upon her daughter’s open MacBook, which reveals iMessages between Julie and her friends. Yes, it’s unrealistic that any teen would just willy-nilly leave her texts open for snooping mothers to see, but I can roll with it. When you’re preoccupied by thoughts of becoming a new woman, you can be absentminded. As the three parents gather around, the screen floods with eggplant emojis. Manly but sensitive Mitchell assumes, wishfully, that the young women are planning on making eggplant parm together. Everyone else knows better: The eggplant, of course, has become a universal symbol for dick, something the girls are trying to all get on the same night because they want to celebrate their virginity-losing anniversary together — at Olive Garden, with breadsticks.
Julie had announced to her friends earlier that day that she’s ready to go all the way with her steady boyfriend and sets the pact in motion, and Kayla joins in with plans to seduce her prom date so she can get it over with herself. Sam eventually agrees, too, but she secretly has her eyes set on a cool girl at school. These three teenagers are slightly less developed in character than their parents — the movie is more about the adults than the kids. While Neighbors 2 played things too safe, denying the sexual drives of its sorority sisters lest they seem objectified, Blockers acknowledges that teen girls have desires, too, but that sex can mean so many different things to different people.
Cannon’s film always lets the girls call their own shots on their own terms. That’s despite their parents chasing after them Fast and Furious style (well, more like slow and unfurious, as Barinholtz’s character says), somersaulting across hotel rooms and, in one of the funniest scenes, accidentally getting caught up in kinky sex play between two other parents (Gary Cole and Gina Gershon). The boys of the daughters’ choosing are obviously eager to fulfill the girls’ sexual wishes (what straight teen boy wouldn’t be?) but they’re never shown pressuring their partners or putting them in uncomfortable situations. Look at that, dudes: Even the horny can be respectful!
Blockers, on the surface, sticks very much to the formula — even the prom setting is very been there, done that. But it’s subversive in these little details, and the resolution is genuinely touching. The best part is that Cannon doesn’t have to sacrifice any of the laughs to get there.