John Cena stars alongside Leslie Mann and Ike Barinholtz as parents determined to derail their daughters’ plans to have sex for the first time on prom night. Rating: 2 stars out of 4.
“Blockers” will not revitalize the teen-sex-comedy genre, but it does make for another reasonably convincing piece of evidence for the John Cena: Comedian file. Rubber-faced and ready to mug, he’s perpetually contorting into some new rictus of horror at the thought of his daughter losing her virginity.
That sense of parental panic fuels “Blockers,” directed by Kay Cannon, who wrote the three “Pitch Perfect” films. Her directorial debut, this film is a third-generation Judd Apatow dupe: a little raunch, a lot of sentimentality — some of which even feels genuine.
Cena stars alongside Leslie Mann and Ike Barinholtz as parents determined to derail their daughters’ plans to have sex for the first time on prom night. The trio of high-school seniors (Kathryn Newton, Geraldine Viswanathan, Gideon Adlon) has remained close friends since grade school, but the parents have drifted apart. What better impetus for reconnecting than an all-night quest to ruin your children’s sense of trust in you?
For their part, the high schoolers here are all fundamentally decent, treating one another with respect and disregarding social hierarchy. The kids are all right — which only amplifies the parents’ boundary-trampling behavior.
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Cena’s wide-eyed terror meshes well with Mann and Barinholtz doing variations on their usual characters. She’s the “best friend” single mom, a casual facade masking her mounting desperation at her daughter drifting away. He’s the deadbeat, emotionally arrested dad, always locked and loaded with a sardonic aside.
Much of this is amiable in the moment, but the movie lumbers from set piece to set piece with only the barest of plausible connecting threads. The film’s sense of physical comedy is woeful, relying more on the suggestion of humor than competent blocking or editing.
The film’s big comic moments — Cena’s character getting roped into a “butt-chugging” contest, the group getting caught in the middle of sex games played by more free-spirited parents (Gina Gershon and Gary Cole) — have potential, laden with gay panic though they are. They’d be funnier if the camera looked like it was in on the joke.
★★ “Blockers,” with Leslie Mann, John Cena, Ike Barinholtz, Kathryn Newton, Geraldine Viswanathan, Gideon Adlon, Gina Gershon, Gary Cole. Directed by Kay Cannon, from a screenplay by Brian Kehoe and Jim Kehoe. 102 minutes. Rated R for crude and sexual content, and language throughout, drug content, teen partying and some graphic nudity. Several theaters.