In Kay Cannon’s Blockers — the title’s silent prefix works with both “Cock” and “Ball”— jock dad Mitchell (John Cena) fancies himself as a LeBron James-esque enforcer intent on stopping man-bun-wearing chemistry geek Connor (Miles Robbins) from scoring in his daughter Kayla’s sacred basketball hoop on prom night. Kayla (a charismatic, crooked grinning Geraldine Viswanathan) is the light of Mitchell’s life, and yet he’s so blinded by the smart, funny, sex-positive woman she’s becoming, he’s practically staring at the sun. In her bedroom, Mitchell casually, and obliviously, massages himself with her vibrator, and she just as casually plucks it from his beefy hands and turns it off. Later, spying on a string of naughty emojis symbolizing a sex pact between Kayla and BFFs Julie (Kathryn Newton) and Sam (Gideon Adlon), he bleats, “They’ve got an agreement to make eggplant parmesan!”
Nope. Kayla, Julie, and Sam have a deal to lose their virginities on the same night. Julie, the romantic with Love Actually and 16 Candles posters on her walls, wants to seal the deal with Austin (Graham Phillips), her very serious boyfriend of six months, which has her clingy mother Lisa (Leslie Mann) terrified her daughter will destroy her life over a crush. (As she quit college for Julie’s father, she over-identifies.) Kayla and Sam just want to inaugurate a friendaversary—an excuse to go to the Olive Garden every year for, hey, eggplant parmesan!—which as reasons go, is pretty weak. Still, it’s their reason, pledged in devotion to each other, not any guy, and they’ve made it soberly in the cafeteria long before the night explodes into drunken projectile-vomiting. More-so, it’s their reason, full stop, and Mitchell and Lisa, the ying-yang twins of macho fatherhood and fluttery motherdom, don’t get to run defense. The third parent, Ike Barinholtz’s barfly Hunter, joins up a saboteur—how dare this prudish posse attempt to prevent his Sam from having the best night of her life, just as prom was for him before his life rolled toward the gutter. Bleats Hunter, “We have to empower these young women! It’s 2018!”
That it is. Back when the adults would have graduated high school, the hit teen sex comedy was American Pie. (Though it’s impossible to imagine a smaller model of John Cena existing, let alone buying a ticket — and thank heaven as his bulging forehead veins couldn’t withstand imagining Connor posterizing his daughter, aka immortalized on social media like Jason Biggs’ overexcited dalliance with foreign exchange student Nadia.) Just like American Pie filmmakers Chris and Paul Weitz, Blockers screenwriters Brian and Jim Kehoe are brothers trying to do right by the sexual politics of the time. For the Weitz’s that meant letting the boys flail around wheedling to get laid while steadily acknowledging that the girls call the shots. Granted, that meant Nadia, Stifler’s mother, and band camp seductress Michelle were aggressive Penthouse fantasies, but at least the late ’90s did better by women than the ’80s babes lured into moon bounces with lies and booze, and rewarded with their disembodied legs standing spread on a VHS cover.