Blockers

★ ★ ★ ☆

The advertising tagline for “Blockers” says it all: “Teens Out to Have Fun. Parents Out to Stop It.” Cue the hijinks as Leslie Mann, John Cena and Ike Barinholtz play parents who go to elaborate lengths to try and disrupt their daughter’s pact to do more than just shake their hips at their prom.

The laughs in “Blockers” begin when single mom Lisa (Mann) intercepts texts—complete with suggestive eggplants and drooling faces—between her teenage daughter Julie (Kathryn Newton) and her besties, Kayla (Geraldine Viswanathan) and Sam (Gideon Adlon). The girls have grown up together and done everything as a group. Tonight they’re on the way to prom with a plan to do more than dance. “Tonight is the first night of our adult life,” says ringleader Kayla. “I want to go to prom and lose my virginity.” Lisa alerts the other parents, the boozy Hunter (Barinholtz) and muscle bound Mitchell (Cena), to make sure everyone that everyone makes it home safe and untouched. “In times of crisis parents are known to have superhuman strength,” says Lisa.

“Blockers” is a very silly movie that makes several very serious points. The adult leads go heavy on the slapstick and Barinholtz in particular is skilled in finding the laugh in throwaway lines. So you’ll laugh. A lot. But in between Cena chugging beers in his butt—yup, you read that right—and Mann’s trademarked comic vulnerability are strong messages about female empowerment, about young women making there own decisions about not being damsels in distress. So, what could have been a distaff “American Pie” is something more, something that feels timely. Although Brian and Jim Kehoe wrote the script, director Kay Cannon sees to it that “Blockers” emphasises the female perspective.

“Blockers” is a sex comedy but for a new generation. Gone is the shame and guilt of “American Pie.” They’re replaced with frank and open discussions about controlling their lives—both the kids and the adults—coupled with some prerequisite heartstring plucking near the end. It’s not particularly memorable but the representation of teens as kids ruled by their brains as much as their hormones is a nice leap forward.        

3 ½ STARS