BLOCKERS,  US, 2018.  Starring Leslie Mann, John Cena, Ike Barinholtz, Ramona Young, Kathryn Newton, Gary Cole, Gina Gershon, Geraldine Viswanathan, Miles Robbins, Graham Phillips, Gideon Adlon. Directed by Kay Cannon.  102 minutes. Rated MA (Strong crude sexual humour and nudity, coarse language).

Another of the increasingly popular raucous American comedies from recent years – especially when they have ‘bad’ or ‘dirty’ in the title or mention Seth Rogen (who is one of the producers here).

This is one of those films where one needs to check one’s sensibilities and sensitivities at the door.

As regards sensibilities – whether one responds well to themes about American teenagers, their difficulties with their parents, their parents even greater difficulties with them, especially concerning sexual relationships and sexual activities.

As regards sensitivities – this always asks the question how are in the themes treated? And then adjectives like rude, vulgar, crass, raucous turn up in connection with the humour. And the treatment of the teens and their behaviour and language. (And, some commentators remark on toilet humour – though this one seems to have more of predilection for extensive vomit and for butt-chugging.

This is a story about three teenage girls, the 24 hours of preparation for the prom night, the prom dance itself and its aftermath, decisions made at the end of high school. It focuses on the girls’ expectations from the prom – certainly not the kind of prim and formal prom of the past! But they spend time discussing sexual relationships, Julie (Kathryn Newton) the central character determined that she will have her first sex experience, which has to be perfect, with her boyfriend, Austin. This involves the perfect hotel room, rose petals, music and quiet… Her best friend Kayla (Geraldine Visnawathan) is a sporting type, plainspoken and ready for random sexual activity. The other friend, Sam (Gideon Adlon) is a closeted lesbian with an eye on one of her fellow students.

That is the story for the teenage audience for the film. It is rather different for the adult audience – depending on their memories of what they were like at the equivalent teenage time.

Julie’s mother, a single mother (Leslie Mann) is hyper-preoccupied with her daughter’s well-being and intentions. Kayla’s father (John Cena) is a big, tough, traditional type. Sam’s father (Ike Barinholtz) gives the impression of being a somewhat sleazy type, but does have his better moments.

So, the action is intercut between the activities of the girls and the various adventures – and mishaps – that the parents go through with their concern, arguments about whether to intervene or not, how permissive they should be, their attitude towards love?

All in all, a somewhat raucous night with a question about the ultimate decisions of the three girls (including Julie’s mother finding herself under the bed in the chosen room in the hotel anxious about whether she should stay or not).

This reviewer has been using for many years a phrase “The Judd Apatow Syndrome”. It refers to this kind of American comedy, seemingly raucously permissive at first but then moving to a more moralising tone. And Julie’s mother here is played by Leslie Mann who happens to be married to Judd Apatow. There is some moralising at the end but not all audiences will agree with the conclusions – and some have remarked that this is rather old-fashioned in its presumption that the girls have to be protected at all costs while the males can do what they like.

And so the question is raised, is this typical of contemporary American society? Of other cultures and societies around the world?

Universal      Released March 29th

Peter Malone MSC is an Associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting.

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