Movie Review: 'Blockers'

John Cena struggles in good, not great, 'Blockers.'

When their daughters make a sex pact on Prom Night, three parents set out stop them in the new comedy Blockers. Lisa (Leslie Mann), Mitchell (John Cena), and Hunter (Ike Barinholz) entered each other’s lives when their daughters met and became lifelong friends in Kindergarten. Now, with college on the horizon and Prom Night at hand, the three parents are adjusting poorly to their daughters growing up.

For Lisa and her daughter, Julie (Kathryn Newton) separation anxiety is setting in. Having been so close for so many years, with Lisa as a single mom, the idea that Julie will be leaving for UCLA from their home in Chicago is fraught. It’s fraught to the point where Julie is afraid to actually tell her mother that she is considering moving hundreds of miles away to the same school that her boyfriend, Austin (Graham Phillips), happens to also be attending.

For Mitchell, the angst is similar except that he and his wife Marcie (Saraya Blue) have raised their daughter, Kayla (Geraldine Viswanathan) as a tomboy in hopes of delaying her from getting involved with boys. No such luck on prom night, however, as Kayla has a date with Connor (Miles Robbins) who doesn’t seem capable of hiding the fact that he’s a stoner with a unique reputation.

Hunter’s distant relationship with his daughter Sam (Gideon Adlon) is best left for you to discover when seeing Blockers. The thing to know for the plot is that Hunter is distanced from not just his daughter, but also his former friends, Lisa and Mitchell. Despite this, he will be joining them for the raunchy hi-jinks as they chase after their daughters after finding out the girls have made a pact to lose their virginity on Prom Night.

Blockers is the first feature film behind the camera for director Kay Cannon. Cannon’s previous experience was as the writer of each of the Pitch Perfect movies which, much like Blockers, were hit and miss but mostly hits. None of the Pitch Perfect movies rank as great comedy but each was good enough and that is where Blockers lands. It's good enough. For a silly, raunchy, R-Rated comedy, Blockers delivers enough laughs to get a pass from me.

The biggest issue with Blockers is the film’s trailer, which contains many of the biggest gags in the movie. What should be the loudest punchlines in Blockers have much of their power taken away by the fact that most audiences have heard the jokes before. The one big, too raunchy for the ad campaign gag involves Office Space standout Gary Cole and sexpot Gina Gershon. I will leave you to discover that gag on your own. I will just say it pays off in a brief post-credits scene that John Cena fans will not want to miss.

How is John Cena in Blockers? Not great, if I am being honest. Cena is not a bad actor but he is still coming into his own and perhaps Blockers is a little too much to ask of him at this point in his career. The WWE star was terrifically funny in the Amy Schumer comedy Trainwreck, but that film used him sparingly, got the best gags out quickly, and wrote him out quickly.

The same could be said of his roles in the Tina Fey-Amy Poehler comedy Sisters and the war drama The Wall. In each film, Cena is not the central player but a colorful supporting player. Playing the lead here in Blockers, Cena is awkward and at times fails to land the punchlines the way a more seasoned goofball might have. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a significant flaw, it doesn’t ruin Blockers, but it holds the movie back just a little.

Cena plus the marketing campaign kept me from loving Blockers but I do recommend the movie. There are just enough laughs in Blockers, especially from these wonderful young actresses and Leslie Mann’s centered and seasoned comic performance that I can recommend the movie. Perhaps, however, consider skipping the theater and waiting for Blockers on your favorite streaming service.