The year's first truly great comedy has arrived and, surprisingly, it stars John Cena in a lead role. Perhaps more surprisingly, given how rarely this occurs, it's an R-rated, female-driven, studio comedy that was directed by a woman. I can't definitely say that's never happened before, but it's about as rare as a bigfoot sighting, at best. However, if Blockers is any indication, this is something that should be entertained far more often, as it's a truly hilarious, refreshing and all around good big studio comedy. Plain and simple, if you like to laugh, Blockers is for you. It doesn't need to be more complicated than that.
Blockers centers on a group of three high school friends, Kayla, Julie and Sam, who are preparing for their prom night. The trio decides to make a pact to lose their virginity together, with all three girls entering into the pact with a very different set of circumstances in regards to who they'll be doing that with and how they'll be going about it. Things get tricky when three of their parents discover that their girls have made this pact. In order to stop it from happening, they launch a "covert" operation to stop the girls from sealing the deal.
Leslie Mann, Ike Barinholtz and John Cena topline the cast of Blockers, as the trio of parents who, for their own well-defined, individual reasons, are on this mission to stop their daughters from going through with this pact. They're a terrific and fun trio to follow and this really is the perfect thing for Cena, who has been improving as an actor but really shines here. Luckily, it's an ensemble piece and he doesn't have to put the whole thing squarely on his shoulders. Mann and Barinholtz, who are incredibly experienced and terribly funny, help bolster his performance. The important thing is, it's all in service of the comedy and this is a laugh-per-minute kind of movie. It's relentlessly funny.
Much of that does rest on the shoulders of Kay Cannon, who you may know from the Pitch Perfect movies, who makes her directorial debut here. Not to get too ahead of ourselves, but she could be the new-age, female Adam McKay. She really has a unique voice and perspective that not only drives the staggering amount of humor packed into Blockers, but also helps drive the genuinely emotional stuff going on underneath that comedy. She crafts a lot of very human characters with very human motivations and all of those things work in service to the comedy. But they also help make Blockers an actual movie as opposed to a series of jokes. Sure, having Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg on board as producers is going to serve as a credit to any comedic project, but Cannon deserves a lot of credit for this movie not just becoming a series of uninspired dick jokes. There are dick jokes, to be sure, but they're better than average.
Really, what makes Blockers so unique and refreshing in the landscape of R-rated comedy movies is that it's a female-driven story. Yes, we follow around three parents for a large chunk of the movie. But it's really about Kayla (Geraldine Viswanathan), Julie (Kathryn Newton) and Sam (Gideon Adlon). These girls knock this thing out of the park and have insane chemistry that makes you care about the movie's outcome, beyond just getting in a lot of laughs. They're just really great performers who bring a lot to the movie. We've seen tons of wacky comedies in this vein in the past, with the most obvious example being American Pie, but never from a perspective like this. It allows for plenty of new humor scenarios that you simply don't see that often and, having a female director tell a female story pays off in a big way here.
Blockers is a comedy that brings a lot to the table, but ultimately, it's a comedy and you're going to watch a comedy because you want to laugh. Fear not, because Blockers is unquestionably hilarious and it's just nice that there's also a lot more going on here to really sink your teeth into. Premiering at SXSW, Universal Pictures really did this movie the right way. This is a movie that's going to serve as a pleasant surprise to a great many people, I suspect.