“Blockers” teaches us a very important lesson: John Cena and Leslie Mann are much better than you think.
Cast as worried parents at prom time, they do everything but drive the limo. When another dad (Ike Barinholtz) shows up with a stretch, he becomes a partner in crime and fuels plenty of concern. While the idea of a prom comedy is nothing new, the perspective is – parents trying to run interference. Because they’ve hovered so much, Cena and Mann don’t trust the kinds of decisions their daughters will make.
Sure enough, they snoop at their text emojis and discover big things could be coming down. What they don’t realize is how extensive this partying can be. Before long, the teens have led them from hotel rooms to a lusty couple’s bedroom where naked hide-and-seek is the order of the day.
The bits are funny – even if they stretch the bounds of believability – and frequent enough to hold interest.
But if parents as involved as these two aren’t more in tune with their daughters’ friends, something must have gone awry. Director Kay Cannon never says but she does hint that hovering can prompt secrets.
Mann’s daughter, Julie (Kathryn Newton), wants to go to UCLA, but won’t say anything. She also has a pact with besties Kayla (Geraldine Viswanathan) and Sam (Gideon Adlon) to all lose their virginity on prom night.
Because he’s just as smothering as Mann, Cena’s willing to do just about anything to put the brakes on romance. He goes to a house party and, in exchange for information, agrees to do some, uh, beer chugging. The competition sounds funnier than it is, but it does let us see a game Cena. He’s great as the uptight, tucked-in dad. He’s also a good partner for Mann, even though they’re just friends, not lovers.
Barinholtz is actually the wild card – a deadbeat dad who wants to be taken seriously after years of absence. He gets his laughs, too, but there’s a sadness – and a disconnect – that keeps him at arm’s length.
When the three are breaking into the randy couple’s house, the playing field levels and “Blockers” becomes the comedy you want. Cena and Barinholtz go to lengths you wouldn’t expect; Mann hides in a hotel room to learn what she should have known years earlier.
Rolling around the floor like a spy, she’s very good at physical comedy and fairly facile with a one-liner.
“Blockers” cracks the door to more open communication and ends with a goodbye that practically invites a sequel.
If it has as many amusing moments as this, bring it. We’ve laughed at less and never thought twice. Here, at least, we get to see the start of an even bigger career for John Cena. He's ready to taste what the Rock has cooking.