Interference (Blockers, 2018)

Blockers_PosterHonestly, when I heard about a film focusing parents trying to stop their daughters from fulfilling a sex pact on prom night? I cringed. The boys get American Pie where their quest is validated…but for the girls it is all about stopping them? It felt archaic.

Imagine my surprise watching the film Blockers to realize the film makers had similar ideas.

Mitchell, Lisa and Hunter meet on their daughters’ first day of school and become friend. Flash forward and the three are no longer as close of friends as their daughters. Julie, Kayla and Sam have remained the closest of friends and on prom night, they agree to lose their virginity to their dates. Julie is into her boyfriend and wants a romantic moment, Kayla just decides it is time and Sam…well, Sam is wondering if she wants to date boys at all, but she is afraid of losing her friends.

Julie and her mom Lisa are in a single parent situation, and Lisa seems very scared of losing her daughter.  Mitchell is a bit of a man’s man who believes he has to protect Kayla from predatory boys.  Hunter has largely been absent since divorcing Sam’s mother, but he is sure his daughter is gay and does not want her to regret sleeping with a boy just because she feels pressured to do it.

When the three get wind of their kid’s pact they go on a mission to save their daughters from making terrible mistakes. But through the course of the evening, they start to realize their daughters are not the core problem… Lisa is fearful of not having a close relationship with her daughter, not realizing she has been pushing Julie away.  Mitchell thinks he has failed his duty as a protector…and realizing that maybe Kayla is not in need of saving is a scary thing.  And Hunter? Well, he actually fears he has let his daughter down so badly, there may be no hope of connecting back to her life.

The film avoids stereotypes, John Cena’s Mitchell is actually pretty playful and kind…and prone to tears. And the film never treats this as a shameful thing. Leslie Mann has the neurotic mother thing down and is quite sympathetic.  Ike Barinholt’s Hunter starts out as super obnoxious…but you start to see cracks in the facade.

The film also gives us a totally platonic friendship between Mitchell and Lisa (with her having withdrawn out of finding seeing him with his family as painful as it reminded her of what she feels she has lost). I found all three of the main actresses really likable. They really sell the friendships with the girls. The film also avoids making any of the guys who are the dates awful people. There are no villains in the films beyond the fears of the parents.

Now, the film is incredibly raunchy at certain points. Blockers may be a little to much for some folks. But I found myself laughing throughout the film. The jokes hit and the film has a lot of heart. Blockers was a pleasant surprise that left me entertained.

Family Road Trip (Vacation, 2015)

vacation_posterThe National Lampoon’s Vacation franchise is an uneven one.  The original is a quotable classic, as is Christmas Vacation.  European Vacation has it’s moments and Vegas Vacation?  Well, it is Vegas Vacation.

National Lampoon has been dropped from the title for this updated tale of a Griswold Family Vacation.  This time around it focuses on Rusty Griswold (Ed Helms) and his wife Debbie (Christina Applegate).  Pilot Rusty is inspired to take his wife and two sons on the very same road trip to Wally World as his father took him on.  In one of the more clever sequences of the film Rusty and Debbie argue whether a new Vacation is a good idea.  The whole discussion is a veiled defense of this fourth sequel.  Who remembers the Vacation from thirty years ago?  Why take the same trip? How is it any different?

Alas, most of the film is not quite as clever.  Don’t get me wrong, I did laugh.  But the film just never quite reaches the heights of either the original or Christmas Vacation.  It tries, mostly through rude and gross-out humor, but really, the truth is? Chase just brought a level of heart to the character of Clark Griswold that Helms never seems to have here.

Clark’s failures were a byproduct of major devotion to what he believed family should be.  His awkwardness was his belief in how he should be as a father and husband.  And while Helms’ Rusty pays words to this…it just feels less…real.

The film has a good cast, but the film itself never gels as well as the best of the Vacation films.  The writing never gives the cast any real heart to work with.

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