The phenomenon of helicopter parenting gets a proper takedown in “Blockers,” an uneven but still welcome comedy. Although raunchy at regular intervals, this film genially insists that the kids are all right — it’s the parents who need to please calm down.
In an exact reversal of the usual male-centric teen farce, three girlfriends make a pact to lose their virginity on prom night. A trio of parents (after brazenly intercepting private texts on an open laptop) spend the evening trying to catch their kids before the alleged disaster can strike.
Even given the gender switch, this could easily be a cliche. But director Kay Cannon (a veteran writer-producer from “30 Rock”) creates a cheery atmosphere throughout, creating little spaces for actors to shine and jokes to evolve.
The movie is exceptionally well-cast. In the meddling-parent roles, Leslie Mann does another of her loose-limbed slapstick turns as a single mom who can’t bear the thought of separation from her daughter; John Cena confirms his entertaining graduation from pro wrestler to deft comedian (see also “Trainwreck” and “Daddy’s Home”) as a weepy worried dad; and Ike Barinholtz (“The Mindy Project”) plays a loudmouth loser stumbling in the direction of being a better father.
Equally good are the younger actors. Kathryn Newton takes the standard prom-queen role and gives it little flickers of oddness, which makes her believable as Mann’s daughter. Geraldine Viswanathan is confident and funny as the friend who always has to take things just a little too far, and Gideon Adlon is quietly sly as the beta-female with a secret crush.
The necessity of steering into the R-rated territory of “Bridesmaids” results in a few detours, including a projectile-vomiting session and a home invasion, during which the nosy parents interrupt two swingers (Gary Cole and Gina Gershon) playing sex games while their son is at the prom.
The parents also barge into the obligatory house-party scene — the actual prom seems to be depopulated for much of the evening — where the big gross-out moment has Cena imbibing beer through an unexpected orifice (“They got a lager or an IPA,” Barinholtz offers, helpfully).
It’s crude, but unlike the rancid mood of the “Neighbors” movies, “Blockers” maintains a sunny likability. The energetic actors and the cavalcade of tossed-away one-liners keep the movie agreeably buzzy, even through the scenes that fall short. And when it lets the teenagers teach the parents a lesson, “Blockers,” like a good IPA, is downright refreshing.
‘Blockers’ (2½ stars)
In a reversal of the usual teen farce, three girlfriends make a pact to lose their virginity on prom night; their helicopters parents (Leslie Mann, John Cena, Ike Barinholtz) spend the evening trying to stave off the alleged disaster. Lots of raunchy moments and some scenes that don’t work, but the movie is exceptionally well-cast, and maintains a genial mood despite the circumstances.
Rating: R, for language, nudity, subject matter
Opening: Alderwood Mall, Cinebarre Mountlake Terrace, Everett Stadium, Galaxy Monroe, Marysville, Meridian, Oak Tree, Pacific Place, Seattle 10, Thornton Place, Woodinville, Cascade Mall