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Wheels goes to the prom with BLOCKERS!

Wheels here with a review of an interesting take on an old sub-genre,
The teen sex comedy has been a staple of film since the late 1970s. Some of the better known examples of the genre, such as PORKY'S and AMERICAN PIE, are still seen as funny by many but are deeply problematic when analyzed through A modern-day perspective.
So, how would you approach the genre in 2018? A shifting of perspective would be needed. Approaching the idea of the teen sex comedy through the lens of empowered young women is a start. Another idea that would be needed is the idea that sexuality and discovering your sexual identity is a normal part of growing up and shouldn't be viewed as deviant or harmful behavior.
BLOCKERS does this very well. The story of three high school senior girls who agree to mutually lose their virginity on prom night is at its base not so different than the earlier films I mentioned but what makes it refreshing is the attitudes the film presents about sex. The three girls; played by Kathryn Newton (LADY BIRD), Geraldine Viswanathan, and Gideon Adlon (AMERICAN CRIME);  want to experience sex on their terms. They are not presented as unaware or uneducated. They aren't innocent prizes to be won or conquered. They also aren't presented as slutty caricatures. They are portrayed as emotionally healthy, reasonable, and intelligent young women. All three give excellent, realistic performance. The standout, however, is  Viswanathan, as "Kayla". She is presented as the most 'matter of fact' about the situation and her wants and as a result, gets most of the funny lines of the three.
Proper representation is all well and good but is the film actually funny? Yes it is. Most of the humor is due to the actors playing their parents; John Cena (THE MARINE), Leslie Mann (THIS IS 40), and Ike Barinholtz (SUICIDE SQUAD). John Cena is the comedic secret weapon of the film. Every gag he Is involved with lands hard with big laughs. He seems to have no issue with poking fun at his tough guy image and whether he's engaged in a bit of ridiculous physical comedy or getting emotional when the script calls for it, Cena nearly steals the show at every opportunity and It's easy to see why his name is being tossed around for high profile projects. Leslie Mann, not to be outdone, engages in a few great bits of physical comedy her self and she is completely believable as the single mother who is not yet ready for her daughter to leave the nest. Barinholtz takes what should be a fairly obvious one note character of the overgrown man-child absentee father and brings rea nuance to it and   Is arguably the emotional heart of the film which not something you would expect based on the film's advertising. Add to that trio, funny supporting turns from Gary Cole (OFFICE SPACE), Hannibal Buress (SPIDERMAN: HOMECOMING), Miles Robbins (MY FRIEND DAHMER), and Colton Dunn (PARKS AND RECREATION) and you have a very strong ensemble.
Does everything in the film work? Unfortunately, no. Some of the more 'gross out' gags fall flat; there is a bit with vomiting that just goes on much too long with out any real point other than the filmmakers thinking bodily fluids are funny. A little editing would have greatly improved the scene. The laugh to drama ratio tends to fade a bit as the film goes on as well.
The directing by first-timer Kay Cannon (writer of the PITCH PERFECT series) is workman-like and doesn't draw attention to itself. I would be curious to see her work from one of her own scripts as it feels like she was so enamored with Brian and Jim Kehoe's script (their first feature length one) that she did not want to take away from it. I think that was a smart choice as what really makes BLOCKERS work is it's unique take on well-worn concepts.
To sum it up, BLOCKERS is an enjoyable, but not overly hilarious attempt at refashioning a problematic sub-genre for a more social aware public. There are certainly enough laughs to make it worth your time though.
BLOCKERS  is currently playing in theaters nation-wide.
Wheels out!
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