Blockers ★★★★

I have my moments, you know? Places where I flash some unrealized brilliance, some untapped reservoir of deep thought. And then I have moments like Blockers, where I spend the entire film appreciating how great it was they cast Channing Tatum, only to hit the end credits and see John Cena's name staring at me going, "Uhh, duh!?" What can I say, I'm not always the sharpest knife in the drawer, but also, like, fuck me but they do look a lot alike, ok. Sure, Cena is a bit older and more "wrestly" or something, but Channing Tatum does have a similar vibe thing, yes?

It's prom night for Julie, Kayla, and Sam, who have been best friends since Kindergarten. Julie confides that she's decided to lose her virginity to her boyfriend, Austin. They've been dating for six months and it feels right. Well, after some initial excitement for Julie, Kayla and Sam say "fuck it" and decide the time is ripe for them as well: It's prom, damn it, and we're all gonna fuck! It'll be a bond they share for the rest of their life, so they make a sex pact. But when Julie's mom sees texts about the sex pact, she freaks out—along with Kayla and Sam's respective dads—so runs an intercept mission: Saving their daughters from the wily desires of boys.

With two sets of main characters—one of whom has an impactful set of boyfriends—running two split narratives with such a crisscross of relational dynamics, knowing how to even begin talking about Blockers is overwhelming. So I'm going to segment this review, first by each trio, then with sections for each parent/daughter duo. Is this the best way to look at Blockers? Damned if I know, but at the least it's a way, and hopefully not the worst way.

Trio A: The Daughters (and their boyfriends)
While Blockers gives us a somewhat typical "three girls who are unlikely friends in real life" setup, their backstory is believable enough and the chemistry between actor strong enough to carry. And I liked that, even though they're best friends, you can tell (without exposition to that extent) that Sam's a little bit of an outsider by this point in the friendship. A "legacy" friend, so to speak. Neither Julie (pretty, popular) or Kayla (athletic, popular) seem conscious of this—although Sam (nerdy, not popular) might be—but we can see the subconscious effect in the way early conversations flow and to whom excitement is focused. There's an interesting physical representation of this when we see the three girls standing together: Julie and Kayla are facing each other, with Sam at the side, looking back and forth at each.

The boyfriends are largely a likable lot, although don't really get much development. The best of the lot is Kayla's boyfriend, Connor, who has the slacker gender-fluid thing down pat. He reminds me so much of someone I've seen in something and I can't remember what. I look at Connor in Blockers, think "Wow, he's a dead ringer for __________!" but my memory clicks from the character he looks like, to Matthew McConaughey in Dazed and Confused, who Connor doesn't look like at all. It's like there's this skip in my memory that a record needle keeps popping over. (I've literally spent about 45 minutes fretting over who the fuck Connor looks like—not so much because the comparison is essential for this review, I know none of you give an actual fuck, but because resonating so strongly with a character's aura, and feeling that same aura from somewhere else without knowing that somewhere, is downright anxiety-inducing. BUT those 45min of clicking the chambers of my brain around the image of Connor did not go to waste: Joe Serock, a professional poker player. No wonder my Google searches for "movie stoners" and "tv beach bums" did not pull anything, lol. And it makes sense: I've always thought Joe Serock has a Matthew McConaughey feel to him. But Serock has an inner glow and a genuineness to his smile and just a deeply seated sense of self-confidence that I really feel in Connor's character. They're both also probably the highest guys in any room, lol. Seriously, click through that picture I linked and imagine his hair in a bun.)

Sorry for the pointless digression.

The other two fellows are fine. Out of sight or serving the narrative for Julie and Sam, not their own uniqueness. That said, even though the relationships aren't really built up, they feel appropriate for the way each girl reaches her decision to lose her virginity to them. In other words: Julie and Austin feel like they're in an actual, serious relationship making actual, serious decisions and want the loss of virginity to be a beautiful moment that feels right; Kayla and Connor have a looser relationship, focused more on good times rather than the future, and Kayla herself seems a bit impulsive and interested in experiences rather than monumental emotional treasures; and Sam and Chad don't seem to have much relationship at all—maybe it's a "prom only" arrangement or maybe they've been casually dating, nor do they seem to be on the same page about much of anything. But Sam strongly suspects she's gay and wants to double check with a guy before taking that step. She's also afraid of losing touch with her high school besties and thinks joining the sex pact will equalize the footing between them and she won't have to worry about being forgotten or left behind.

Trio B: The Parents
This is a much less cozy set of personalities. Their kids are at the peak of teenage life, trying to get memorable experiences, but the adults are definitely struggling. They were friendly in the past because of the kids, but they've spiraled in their own directions: Lisa (Julie's mom) is focused on being a single parent and enjoying interactions with her daughter. She's definitely in that place where she's living for her daughter, rather than her own goals and interests, so Julie's pending college departure is stressing her out just a tad. Mitchell (Kayla's dad) is a coach-type, into sports and manly things and doesn't like things in his butt and, despite having a good relationship with his daughter, doesn't really understand teenagers. He's a nice enough bloke, if you know what I mean, but when High Anxiety Lisa wants to wants to track their sex-pacted kids down, is more than eager to join up. Then there's Hunter (Sam's birth father). Oh Hunter. Look, Hunter is a bit of the slacker father deadbeat who is struggling through life. His relationship with Sam is... ehhh. But his prom was the best fucking day of his fucking life and all he cares about now is giving Sam the best damned prom he can. And these two bozos trying to get in the way of their child's respective couplings could ruin it for Sam. So Hunter tags along to try and foil Lisa and Mitchell.

also we see a similar dynamic between this trio as we did with the kids: lisa and mitchell acknowledge each other, while hunter has to demand their attention. although the script does do some extra things on the parental end preventing it from being a complete mirror. first of all, we learn that lisa has been stonewalling mitchell's interest in friendship the way the two of them stopped interacting with hunter. 2. there's some apparent sexual tensions between lisa and mitchall, particularly from mitchell. (light spoiler: it never plays out, and given how besotted he seems to be with his wife, is not actually a thing. but that doesn't mean that the tension isn't played up a touch in the film.)

A Parent/Daughter Duo: Lisa and Julie
This feels like the classic cinematic mother/daughter relationship, at least by the way of parent comedy conventions: Lisa has a distinct impression of who Julie is—an impression that's likely five+ years out of date—and while she logically knows Julie is going to go to college, she hasn't emotionally come to terms with what that really means. She's grasping on the idea that Julie is going to a community-type college that will keep her nearby (albeit not actually in the same house). Unbeknownst to her, Julie has applied to other colleges, with no intentions of keeping herself tied to the area she grew up.

In fact, Julie might be feeling a bit smothered by her mother's constant presence in her life. She's kind of living two different lives: There's the person she is at home, where she puts up with routines that she might have enjoyed five years ago, but now is just motions, and there's the person she is at school or in other social settings. And it's not like she becomes the classic wild child or anything, but there's a relaxed looseness when she's just out and about, away from Lisa's cling. And it is a cling. More than that, it's an emotional burden to feel like you're responsible for your parent's happiness, that you're being pressured into a college you don't want to go to because its proximity will alleviate your mom's anxiety.

A Parent/Daughter Duo: Mitchell and Kayla
Mitchell approaches parenting like Kayla is one of his players. He's a coach—a mentor, so to speak—trying to impart valuable life lessons and winning attitudes. And maybe a side effect of this, then, is having raised a confident, assured, "I know the decisions I'm making and stand by them" type of daughter.

So there's an unsurprising clash, then, when someone who needs to teach life lessons disagrees with the decision of someone confident and assured.

A Parent/Daughter Duo: Hunter and Sam
So this duo is the most interesting, I think, because Hunter's divorce has made him a minimal element in Sam's life. Yet despite that he has, out of the three parents, the firmest grip on who his child is. While he eventually gets on the Lisa/Mitchell bandwagon to interfere with their children's decisions, his rationale isn't because he's afraid Sam is going to have sex, but because he knows she's gay and doesn't want her to feel like she has to fuck guys. Or, in the terms I've already laid out for Hunter, having sex with a guy would not make prom the best night of her life, and that's all he wants damnit!

Despite the emotional distance between him and Sam, it's interesting that his goals most respect his child's self-agency. He's not trying to stop her for his sake, so she conforms to a social standard or because he'll feel like a failure of a parent.

That doesn't mean I fully agree with his decision—mistakes are a crucial part of the learning process—but at the least he's coming from a more aware position than Lisa or Mitchell.

One final section before I (finally) reach the conclusion of this review because I do want to talk about the ending. As such, spoiler-tagged:

The Conclusion of the Film: A Resolution
With all the chaos above, it's kind of incredible that they found an ending that somehow wraps up interconnected relationships between the two trios and the three duos that make up the emotional plots each character goes through. The most important point, I think, is that the decisions Julie, Kayla, and Sam make re: their sex pact are completed independently of each other and before the parents enter the picture. The former is key because as sex-positive as I try to be (which is a big ass continuum and I won't claim to be the most sex-positive person out there, but I think compared to most of society I'm pretty damn sex-positive), I don't think a pact is great context for making such decisions. And the latter is key because, in a lot of ways, Blockers is about the parents learning lessons, too, perhaps even more so than the kids. And yet, even though they show up too late to affect the decision making process, they do get moments with their kids to resolve—or at least abate—a lot of the issues that were creating a disconnect between them in the first place.
**End Spoilers**

And to top all that off, there were places I found genuinely funny. A lot of Blockers is pretty hilarious, actually. Despite edging close to "raunchy," Blockers is a feel-good experience. The title is, in my mind, a misstep—the obvious "cockblockers" thing is not a positive impression—but aside from that Blockers works well.

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