After multiple years in a row of less than stellar studio comedies, 2018 has pushed back considerably against that narrative after a successful end to 2017. Game Night started the discussion back in February, crossing the $100 million mark at the global box office while racking up a plethora of positive reviews. Now, Blockers is adding to the trend, receiving positive word of mouth of its own.
The following review will be spoiler free.
Directed By: Kay Cannon
Written By: Brian Kehoe and Jim Kehoe
It’s prom night and Julie (Newton), Kayla (Viswanathan), and Sam (Aldon) could not be more excited for what they claim as one of the most important moments in their young lives. Their parents (Mann, Cena, and Barinholtz) are understandably a little apprehensive about the night, fearful that their kids are growing up a little too fast.
After the kids leave for the night, the parents uncover their group chat on Julie’s laptop. They’re horrified to learn that the kids have made a sex pact for prom night. Fearful, the parents team up to stop their kids from having sex to save their innocence.
Discussing the topic is almost tiresome at this point, but studio comedies have had a tough go of it the past few years, feeling tired themselves as they recycle the same story beats and jokes.
Many outlets have discussed noticeable trends in studio comedies. With an increase in F-words and movie references, many comedies are simply blending together, doing nothing to distinguish themselves from the crowd. It’s 2018, and it’s not enough to have characters use colorful language and improvise countless lines of dialogue.
Luckily, studios are beginning to take notice.
Girls Trip was the beginning of the change a late last summer. The film was smartly written, allowing the comedy to feel organic within its funny premise. Game Night brought some laughs of its own, adding traction to the belief that studio comedies could be saved.
After Blockers, we have films like Tag and Night School, both of which have impressed in their promotional material thus far.
You might be asking, what exactly caused the change? After all, these films still include vulgar humor and a plethora of movie references. There’s no one thing to point to — studios are just investing more into these films, compiling great talent both behind and in front of the camera. When you do that, your movie is typically going to turn out just fine.
While we constantly complain that people are getting dumber, movie audiences are actually getting smarter, and they’re not going to pay for a perceived lazy, unfunny final product. When decisions start to hurt the wallets of executives, that’s when change in the movie industry occurs.
A Talented Cast is Having a Blast
Blockers is one of those films where you can tell that the entire cast had a ball coming to set every day. With improv masters like Ike Barinholtz and Leslie Mann, Blockers builds a large sandbox in which its actors can play.
Kay Cannon has a lot of experience in the comedy world. Whether it be on TV in 30 Rock or in movies with the Pitch Perfect series, she understands the balance between using the script and letting her talented cast go off book.
Barinholtz and Mann bring their A-game once again, but John Cena may have seized the spotlight away from them, creating a great disconnect between his childish mannerisms and his hulking body. Cena has performed well in past movies, but Blockers signifies that he’s here to stay for a very long time. His comedic timing is pretty impeccable, adding the perfect accent — whether it be vocally or physically — to a scene.
Blockers is one of the few films that understands intrafamilial relationships. Each family lives in realistic houses and has relatable fears and issues. The film then takes those elements and expands on them, pushing them over the edge into the realm of absurdism. All good comedy comes from warped view of realism, and Cannon obviously understood that idea.
Side note: watch out for Geraldine Viswanathan in the future. She has some serious charisma!
Blockers is Hilariously Raunchy
The problem with many studio comedies is that they become so raunchy and gross that all the actors become unlikable. My personal least favorite film of 2017, CHIPS, is a good example of that problem.
Kay Cannon keeps Blockers away from such trouble, keeping every character redeemable in some way. So, when bare asses come into play, it’s hilarious rather than off-putting. Not to mention that these moments add little twists to the raunchy comedy formula, becoming surprisingly smart underneath the surface.
It’s an odd balance that Kay Cannon creates in Blockers, but it actually works. Woven in between sex, drugs, and even more sex is somewhat mushy sentimentality between the parents and their children. In some respect, the entities in this movie actually become characters with arcs in the end, so those almost saccharine scenes provide some feeling of comfort within Blockers‘ world of heightened realism.
But still, the main attraction is the vulgar humor, and there are a few bodily-fluid-centric gags that will leave you in tears. Kudos to you, Kay Cannon! I never thought ass beer could be so funny!
Blockers Swings for the Fences, and Sometimes Misses Badly
Sometimes, Blockers feels like a bad improv show due to poor editing. The camera seems unsure when to cut off a scene and move on, and the characters are forced to try another comedic bit that isn’t framed correctly. You can notice instances where Barinholtz, Mann, and each of the three young actresses are almost acting as if they’re waiting for Kay Cannon to yell “cut!” They’ll have a momentary lapse in energy that comes with this anticipation only to then rev up once again and blurt out the first thing that comes to mind when they realize the camera is still rolling. The results are some very awkward encounters that don’t work whatsoever, and it sucks some of the comedic brilliance out of the movie.
To use a sports analogy, Blockers is like a power hitter in baseball. The film takes some huge chances that don’t work, akin to your favorite slugger missing badly at a slider in the dirt. But, when the film connects, just sit back and watch that ball sail over the batter’s eye in center field. It comes down to a matter of whether the highs outweigh the lows or vice versa.
Delightfully raunchy and surprisingly thoughtful, Blockers is a solid studio comedy that isn’t afraid to take chances with both its humor and narrative, creating a comedy that is more than just a few dick jokes — even if those same dick jokes are pretty hilarious.
Leslie Mann and Ike Barinholtz show once again why they’re comedy regulars, using their great improv skills any chance they get. However, John Cena may have stolen the show, proving that The Rock isn’t the only professional wrestler that can make a successful leap to acting.
Blockers is still wildly uneven, but the highs certainly outweigh the lows in my humble opinion.
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