Saturday, April 14, 2018

BLOCKERS

Leslie Mann     John Cena     Ike Barinholtz     Kathryn Newton     Geraldine Viswanathan    Gideon Adlon    Graham Phillips

     Ah, parents!  Three of them in this farce turn out to be helicopter parents bent on redoing their own youth through their children.  Which, of course, turns out to be interference.  “The Kids are All Right” as the 2010 entitled movie showed, and they’re all right here too, making much more sense than their parents—well, most of them.  Three of the teens’ parents were all right too; it’s just the other three who need an intervention.
     The basic conflict is that snooping parents find out that their three daughters plan to lose their virginity on prom night.  They’re set off for different reasons, but Lisa (Mann), Mitchell (Cena), and ambivalent Hunter (Barinholtz) simply assume that they should not let that happen.  
     Director Kay Cannon uses a script from Brian and Jim Kehoe to create a spoof about parents having to let go of their maturing children and protest it by including themselves in the kids’ prom night, of all times!  Of course, they are convinced that their only interest is in protecting their daughters from unscrupulous boys and “ruining their lives.”  It makes for a lot of laughs, without too much damage done.  Along the way, though, these intentions get them into hot water and embarrassing moments when they ironically get caught by their kids. (Isn’t it supposed to be the other way around?  That parents “catch” their kids doing something?
     Blockers hits the mark in a number of places where, for instance, Lisa describes fears for her daughter Julie (Newton) that are clearly a reflection of her own disappointed hopes at that age. Especially funny is father Hunter, who has been an AWOL dad, but more than the others has kept up with millennials, and knows something about their culture and can interpret emojis. This is not always helpful, but at least he has some sense of the need for parents to step back.  No one heeds him, so in a desperate (although late) attempt to stay involved, he goes along with Lisa and Mitchell in their attempts to “rescue” their daughters.
     Where I think Blockers goes over the top is in the assumption that the more shocking something is, the funnier it is. Filmmakers don’t always recognize that fine line between dialog that is life-funny and that which simply turns the viewer off.  Example:  An innocent but determined character telling her partner to put his penis in her vagina in just those words.  No human is likely to say that, so it’s just not funny.  On the other hand, seeing uptight parents happening upon a couple play-acting a sex drama will make you laugh.
     Another place I think the filmmakers missed an opportunity is in deemphasizing the conflict between the sensible parent (who is a doctor) and her husband Mitchell and the parents of Julie’s boyfriend Austin (Phillips), all advising the trio to stay out of their children’s lives.  Maybe this is because Blockers is meant to be comedy over drama.
     Leslie Mann, Ike Barinholtz, and John Cena are hilarious as the three interfering parents, all for different reasons, but consistent with their characters.  

A mostly funny account of parental meddling.

Grade:  C+                                    By Donna R. Copeland


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