'Blockers' Review: A Charming, Sex-Positive Adventure In Raunchy Comedy

If I tried to explain the premise of Blockers and then followed it up with, "I liked it," you'd probably think I'd gone a little crazy. After all, there's nothing about Blockers — from its trailers to its title (the shortened and clean version of "cockblockers") — that would suggest it's as good as it is.

The premise is this: three girls, about to graduate from high school and go to college, make a pact to lose their virginities on prom night. Their parents, who find out about the pact pretty much right after the girls have left the house, set out to stop them. I had my doubts, too — it sounds sexist and regressive! — but Kay Cannon, in an impressive directorial debut, has managed to craft something charming and fresh.

Of course, your mileage may vary. When it comes to set pieces, Blockers pulls from the same playbook as American Pie and the Judd Apatow oeuvre. If the idea of John Cena butt-chugging beer or chain-reaction vomiting sound like a little much, Blockers may not be for you, though there's enough built around the gross-outs to keep most audiences engaged. (There's also a full-frontal shot of Gary Cole, if that does it for you.)

The girls have been friends since their first day of school, and are now facing the typical cavalcade of teen anxieties as they prepare to go off to college. Julie (Kathryn Newton) wants her first time to be perfect (rose petals and candles, baby!), and on top of that, is worried about what her overprotective single mother, Lisa (Leslie Mann), will think when she finds out she's applied to UCLA, all the way across the country. Kayla (Geraldine Viswanathan), who's been raised to be bold and competitive by her father, Mitchell (Cena), is quick to make up the sex pact as soon as Julie spills the beans. Sam (Gideon Adlon) jumps on board next, fearing that she might get left behind if she doesn't agree to it, too. Granted, it's not just the idea of losing touch with her friends that's got her worried. She's started to question her own sexuality, and isn't sure how to express that to Julie and Kayla, let alone her mostly-absent dad (Ike Barinholtz).

In other words, the quote-unquote sanctity of virginity isn't actually what's at stake, here. The girls have thought about what they want, and aren't afraid to be firm when things start to heat up. The parents, meanwhile, are just worried that their children are growing out of them.

Blockers is sex-positive, particularly with regards to female sexuality, and makes sure that the parents are told at every turn that their mission is doubling down on a double standard. For guys, loss of virginity always seems to be celebrated, whereas it's seen as devaluing for girls. Similarly, we've been seeing guys lose their virginity on film for years (American Pie et al.) but the genre is only just beginning to expand when it comes to women. Blockers is also novel in that it's made clear that sex and sexuality aren't always experienced in the same way. Different people want different things. There's no "correct" way of doing it all, and it's nice (if not necessarily entirely realistic) to see the girls all so self-possessed about it.

The main reason it all works is that the cast is as charming as all get out. They all work well with each other to the point that, at the risk of overselling, the film feels like a mix of Love, Simon and Lady Bird. The relationships between the kids as well as between them and their parents feel grounded in genuine experience, which is good in that it distinguishes Blockers from most other coming-of-age or buddy comedies, but makes its weak points more noticeable than they might be otherwise.

To put it simply, the big gross-outs feel unnecessary. They don't cheapen the rest of the film, but they do grind it to a bit of a halt, and suggest that there's still some ground to cover when it comes to crafting the perfect romp. There's also a little awkwardness in Sam's storyline, which deserves some credit for treating her sexuality so naturally, but almost comes off as dismissing it in favor of setting up a joke for a different character.

There's also a fundamental imbalance between the kids' and the parents' storylines, which is likely to seesaw depending on the viewer's demographic. For my money, the teenagers were more compelling, though there was something that struck home about the difficulties inherent in maintaining friendships as adults.

But, all that said, Blockers made me miss high school, and made me miss my parents, which is maybe the best result that this kind of movie can ask for. It doesn't treat its focus on female sexuality like a token or a novelty — it's absolutely normal, which is the way it ought to be. Who says that girls can't have a good time?

/Film Rating: 7 out of 10