You say eggplant, I say aubergine. But while we are in some ways divided by a common language, emojis cross linguistic divides. Possibly not age divides though, as three parents struggle to translate their teenage daughters’ messages as they snoop on an accidentally open laptop.
I’ll admit I was as baffled as them, and never again will I tweet about my love of forests and snowstorms in pictorial form now that I know that trees and snowflakes mean weed and coke. Christ, I’ve only just got over the “what does LOL mean?” argument and that was in about 2003.
Lisa, Hunter and Mitchell are parents to, respectively, Julie, Sam and Kayla. It’s almost Prom night and Julie (Kathryn Newton) is determined to lose her virginity to boyfriend of six months, Austin. Eager to be in on the pact are her best friends Kayla (Geraldine Viswanathan), and then later Sam (Gideon Adlon).
Tracking the three women across the course of a long, long night (I was exhausted just watching all the parties they went to) are the three parents.
Lisa (Leslie Mann) is mum to Julie, and since at least Julie’s first day of school it’s been just the two of them. Their relationship looks claustrophobic, and now with college approaching Lisa must face up to her daughter moving away.
Hunter (Ike Barinholtz) has been largely absent from his daughter Sam’s life, probably for the best as he’s both quite dim and wildly unreliable. Her mum Brenda has remarried, unsurprisingly this time going for the intelligent and steady Frank. (Brenda and Frank are a terrific team – he has genuinely useful advice about the durability of the friendships he built during school, even if his example does involve he and his mates persuading a friend to join the army, who then died on a tour of duty; she declares that teen friendships are not designed to last and she’s only known her own bestie for three months.) Hunter has no relationship to speak of with Sam, preferring to turn up with extravagant presents every now and then; for prom night he provides the limo.
Mitchell (John Cena) is the overprotective and overemotional dad of Kayla, during the course of the night going so far as to suffer the indignity (and probable discomfort) of something called butt chugging, and I’ll probably soon find out there’s an emoji for it which I’ve been using for entirely innocent reasons for years. Butt chugging appears to be a student version of colonic irrigation; and all I can say is if you have prom-age teens please make sure you put your kitchen funnel through the dishwasher before using it for jam-making. (Apparently it gets people drunk very quickly so all I can say is, thank god I fall over after two white wine spritzers – consumed the traditional way.)
He’s also determined that his role in the creation of life is acknowledged. When Lisa is talking about her special bond with Julie as her daughter grew in her womb, Mitchell points out that Kayla “grew from my balls and I shot her into Marcie” which is actually rather sweet.
All three parents go on a metaphorical journey as well as chasing their offspring round the city from prom to after party to after after party; Lisa and Mitchell have to learn to let go while Hunter has to learn to do the opposite, having had no real relationship with Sam over the years.
Initially Blockers looks like it’s going to be a standard frenetic comedy. But director Kay Cannon shows that actually it’s perfectly possible to remove problematic tropes and still produce a mainstream, funny and not remotely worthy movie.
Blockers has a diverse cast and diverse characters. Sam, who turns out to be a lesbian, has an epic flirtation over the course of several parties with the funkily cloak-clad Angelica (Ramona Young). There are no cheap gags – Sam’s putative sexual partner Chad (Jimmy Bellinger) is overweight but is never made a figure of fun because of it. And Lisa does all the driving as she and the two dads rush from venue to venue (to paraphrase Tesco, every little helps when it comes to subverting stereotypes).
Kayla’s mum Marcie (Sarayu Blue) is the (exasperated) voice of reason, pointing out the sexism in the different ways parents view their daughters and sons having sex for the first time. And the team of two men and one woman eventually end up genuine friends, without a hint of sexual attraction between them.
The young men their daughters are threatening to pair up with for the night are all actually rather delightful. Austin (Graham Phillips) is handsome and respectful; his middle-aged parents seem to have a interesting but very equal sex life (terrific cameos from Gary Cole and Gina Gershon). Chad is a sweetheart, as inexpert as Sam.
Connor (Miles Robbins) is a laid-back hoot – known as The Chef because of his drug-laced baking, he presents Kayla, who seems to be up for trying anything in moderation, with MDMA and Xanax-laden macarons. Mitchell, who sports a square haircut of which he is both protective and defensive, seems most annoyed that Connor unironically sports a rather impressive topknot.
Blockers is an incredibly good-natured movie full of teens who know their boundaries, and loving if misguided parents – which still manages to avoid talking down to its characters or its audience.
Sometimes it’s repetitive, and the jokes don’t always hit the spot. But in the main this is a refreshingly different mainstream comedy, with believable and touching performances. Particularly good are Viswanathan, whose Kayla melds a devil-may-care attitude with genuine sweetness, Adlon as the quirky and sometimes gauche Sam, and Mann – Lisa will resonate with many parents desperate to stop their children making decisions they themselves made and have since regretted.
Check out the Blockers trailer now: