Blockers manages to take the typical teenage friendship pact and give us a fresh new perspective, as seen through the parents' eyes. Its strong performances by Leslie Mann, John Cena, and Ike Barinholtz are constantly entertaining, even when the film itself runs out of gas. Add in a respectable video and audio track and some fun special features, and you are left with a comedy worthy of a Recommend.
Being a child of the 90s, I remember that it felt like a new teen raunch comedy would come out every week. They all adopted the same American Pie setup with minimal tweaking. By the time American Wedding was released, not only was I done with the teen raunch genre, but most comedies in general. They all seemed to either be going the way of too much improv or following the same tired formulas. I wanted something new, something that didn’t feel like the equivalent of being handed a stale bag of chips from the get-go. So, if you take the typical raunch comedy, and tell it from the parents' point of view that might be that fresh element to make this bag of goods seem more digestible.
Starting with the opening scene of Blockers, we see Julie (Kathryn Newton), Kayla (Geraldine Viswanathan), and Sam (Gideon Adlon) form a bond on the first day of first grade as their parents watch on and form a bond of their own. Right then and there, we see that this is going to be a story of not just the teenagers that we all know will form a sex pact, but of the parents' reactions too. I am immediately thinking how improved the American Pie sequels would have been with less Stiffler and more Eugene Levie. Lisa (Leslie Mann), Mitchell (John Cena), and Hunter (Ike Barinholtz) are the parents of these young ladies (who are now teenagers) and are the real focus here. Leslie is a single mom to Julie, and they have the kind of relationship where they tell each other everything and do everything together. Mitchell and Kayla have a more traditional relationship in that Mitchell is overly protective of his daughter to a fault. Hunter and Sam have the typical divorced father relationship where Hunter is largely absent in his daughter's life, and when he does take an interest it comes across forced, and disingenuous. None of these relationships are bursting with nuance, but instead feel exactly as we would expect, except that the focus has shifted very much to the parents' point of view, putting a unique flavor in the mix. As the parents send their children off to senior prom, they discover a sex pact in a hilarious bit trying to decipher code through emojis on a text message.
The performances of the cast are what truly make Blockers a worthwhile film. John Cena learned his craft from the WWE. You know, the same school of acting that brought us Hulk Hogan and Triple H on the big screen. Yea, let's just say that the WWE doesn’t always bring us our best thespians. But even though Cena hasn’t shaken some of the wrestling tendencies toward over exaggeration, he rises above that to give us a loving and endearing character with Blockers. Seeing how far he will actually go to ensure his daughter's safety, and how that turns into him being at the end of many awkward encounters makes his character endearing. Leslie Mann is actually the stand out here. She's the most natural to comedy and plays a good ringleader to the gang. Lisa’s persistence going beyond the normal parental duties gets her into endless trouble throughout the film and brings Mitchell and Hunter down with her. Being a divorced mother, Julie is all Lisa has and she will do whatever it takes to hang onto their connection. Then we are left with Ike Barinholtz, a man who has never left an impression on me to be quite honest. But here, as a divorced father going through a midlife crisis, Barinholtz's energy is infectious. And even though it doesn’t come across as natural, that is kind of the point to knowing Hunter. He tries too hard. Plus, unlike his intrusive friends, he is in on the hijinks to ensure his daughter Sam is just true to herself. He doesn’t care if she loses her virginity that night as long as she is being true to herself, which is a refreshingly unique take as a parent. Especially in contrast with his costars.
Blockers isn’t going to break any comedic ground. It actually has passing issues once you learn the deeper meaning behind the three leads. Plus, some of the cast (Julie in particular) come to realizations that don’t seem organic to what is shown. But like its breakout performance of John Cena, Blockers is hilarious with its point of view of the parents and endearing because of it.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Blockers hits Blu-ray courtesy of Universal Studios in the usual slipcover to hardcover packaging. Enclosed lies a BD-50 Blu-ray, DVD, and a Movies Anywhere Digital Copy. Once popped into the player, a whole slew of skippable trailers come before a still image main menu that lets you navigate from there.
Blockers doesn’t block us from having too much fun with a 1080P MPEG-4 AVC encode that delivers a solid transfer. Sporting a 2.39:1 aspect ratio, and being filmed all digitally on Ari Alexa cameras, Blockers' best asset is its bold colors. From the strobe lights at the prom, to the clothing everyone has on, colors are bold and vibrant. Most of Blockers takes place at night, yet blacks are deep without being intrusive. Detail is solid with close ups revealing blemishes and hairs on clothing. While there isn’t any one scene that I was wowed by, Blockers provides a consistent transfer that stands up to any comedy release out there.
Blockers brings out its party side on Blu-ray, with a DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix that at times is a cut above the rest. With a comedy like this, all I ask for is not such a front heavy mix. A little immersion goes a long way. Right away I was pleased to hear ambient noise in the surrounds, along with the score of the film coming through as well. But this mix knows when to get heavy when it needs to. Because when that party music kicks in at the prom and that little blue button kicked on my sub, the base hits hard and makes you feel the scene in the best of ways. That is also true when Lisa’s car blows up. Field of sound opens up when it needs to, and dialogue is crisp and audible. This is a mix that delivers exactly what you expect from scene to scene and delivers everything you would want.
Audio Commentary With Director Kay Cannon - Cannon flies solo for this commentary, so it can be a bit dry from time to time. She talks a lot about the mixture of comedy and character drama, as well as set design. The usual solo commentary from directors.
Deleted Scenes (HD 1:34) – Three scenes that add little to nothing to the film.
Line-O-Rama (HD 7:26) – We all know the new way to do a comedy is through add-libbing. To be honest it doesn’t even come across as a skill as much as a prerequisite. Leslie Mann is the best for obvious reasons, but Cena and Barinholtz hold up to her just fine.
Rescue Mission (HD 5:14) – Despite the misleading title, this is actually a short description of the film as the actors briefly talk about their characters.
Prom Night (HD 6:37) – Focusing on the sex pact and the individual reasons the teenagers are involved in it.
The History of Sex with Ike Barinholtz (HD 2:06) – A gag bit where the actor goes into the long history of the world's history of sex.
John Cena’s Prom Survival Kit for Parents (HD 2:35) – A quite hilarious bit where the actor goes in character to show a gag survival kit for overprotective parents.
Chug! Chug! Chug! (HD 3:20) – An anatomy of a scene feature where they look at the scene where Cena chugs some beer in a way that still haunts me today.
Puke-A-Palooza (HD 2:02) – If you ever wanted to know what goes into characters vomiting on set, here it is.
Sometimes putting a unique spin on a tired formula is all you need to do. That is essentially what Blockers aims for, and succeeds. Much of that success has to do with its great cast at the top of their game. For Cena and Barinholtz that doesn’t mean too much (what other films feature them the way Blockers does?), but Leslie Mann has been in many comedies, and even though I have always liked her, she has never felt more natural. Pair them with a group of likable teens who get their own individual story arcs, and you are left with a film that is sure to please. Blockers isn’t a comedy that will revolutionize the genre. It doesn’t have any nuanced performances. It is simply an entertaining romp with strong performances. And that’s just fine with yours truly. Pair that with a decent Video and Audio transfer, and some fun special features, and what we are left with is a solid Recommended Blu-ray.