John Cena, Leslie Mann and Ike Barinholtz play the parents of a group of teenage girls in the new movie Blockers. Their daughters are all friends and are all making plans for prom. Those plans, the parents discover, involves a pact to all lose their virginity to their dates. The parents are understandably upset by this revelation, believing for various reasons that the girls aren’t ready for such a milestone.
So they set out to track the group down and upset the evening. Of course things don’t go nearly as smoothly as they hope as the trio of adults gets into all sorts of trouble, unable to find their daughters even when they get close. Still, they remain determined to put themselves between their daughters and the boys they’re dating. The movie is the first directorial effort from Kay Cannon, who previously has written the Pitch Perfect movies.
The teaser poster lays out the premise in a couple ways. The copy states clearly “Teens out to have fun. Parents out to stop it.” In case it wasn’t clear what kind of fun that’s referring to, an image of a chicken appears above the title, which when you put together a slang term for the bird and the title you get the basic point.
The same conceit is used on the theatrical poster, only in a slightly different way. The copy at the top here reads “Parents can be such…” before showing the same chicken and then the title, again asking the audience to read the whole thing as a sentence. The photo below that shows the adults beaming proudly while their daughters look embarrassed, ashamed and aghast at how stupid their parents are acting. It’s a simple layout but there’s actually a good bit conveyed here so it kind of works despite having no design aesthetic at all.
Wow is the first trailer bad. Hunter meets Leslie and Mitchell as their young daughters meet in grade school. Cut to present day and the girls are all grown and are about to go to prom. The parents find they’re all texting each other about their plans to have sex and so go out to stop that from happening, getting into all sorts of crazy situations while doing so.
I mean, how much worse can that be? It’s not only shaming the girls – the double standard between men and women is even referenced but not subverted at all – and it ends with Cena chugging beer in his butt and then running from the police with the funnel still hanging from his ass.
The second trailer is basically the same thing only with even more outdated views of female purity on display. I kind of can’t believe this is happening and that someone – many someones – thought this was a good idea. Or at least that this was the best way to sell the movie.
Online and Social
The official website opens with the second trailer if you’re interested in watching that again. After that’s done the splash page features full-screen video along with a prompt to buy tickets as well as links to the movie’s Instagram, Twitter and Facebook profiles.
Also here is something I don’t think I’ve seen before: A prompt to sign up to get reminders about tickets, trailers and more via Facebook Messenger. That’s a cool feature and one that shows Universal is paying attention to broader consumer trends showing messaging apps in general are very popular with younger demographics in particular.
Both trailers are found in the “Videos” section and “About” has a synopsis of the story along with a cast and crew list. There are just four stills in the “Gallery.” Finally, a “Quiz” will help you determine if you’re hip enough to decipher the meanings behind emoji-based messages.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
The trailers and other videos were used on social media as paid ads. There were a number of TV spots run but none seem to have been shared by the studio online.
The studio worked with CollegeHumor.com on a two-day campaign that brought out Cena as a “Blockr,” someone who can be summoned via an app to extricate you from an uncomfortable (in a humorous way) situation. There’s little thematic connection with the movie, it’s just a goofy idea.
Media and Publicity
The movie was one of those announced to be screened at the SXSW Film Festival. The immediate reactions from that screening seemed to present a movie that was 180 degrees from what’s been sold in the marketing campaign and was hailed as a fresh, funny, empowering comedy. While there director Kay Cameron spoke about how she was given the chance to make the movie and what the story meant to her. Most of the rest of the cast were also there and talked about their characters and what attracted them to the film.
Cena was interviewed about his growing presence in movies, all of which he says was due to some early failures and a determination not to take roles just because they fit into the WWE version of his public persona. Instead, he’s trying to actively move against that grain and seems to be finding some success in doing so. Another interview with Cena included Geraldine Viswanathan, who plays his daughter, as they talked about the story and working together.
I’m really trying to give this one the benefit of the doubt, largely because of the positive reviews that came out of its SXSW screening, and believe that it’s not 100 minutes of sermonizing about chastity and how it’s the responsibility of parents to protect a girl’s virtue. That’s what’s being sold in the campaign, which also wants to position the movie as a raunchy, female-empowered comedy.
It’s also hard to miss that this is being used as Cena’s coming out into the big-time as a Hollywood lead after a couple well-received supporting roles. The studio – and Cena himself – seem to be hoping to brand him as an even-more-goofy version of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, someone who’s physically imposing but silly and sensitive.
As a whole the campaign may not work for me but it seems to be a case of it being inaccurately sold more than anything else. We’ll see.
PICKING UP THE SPARE
Leslie Mann has done a few additional press stops including an appearance on “Late Night” to promote the movie and talk about John Cena’s butt.
Director Kay Cannon has given a couple of post-release interviews like this one where she continued talking about creating a raunchy but also emotional comedy.
This is a great example of the kind of story that’s been common throughout the movie’s publicity cycle, one that focuses on rebranding Cena as a comedy star.
Similarly, director Kay Cannon has received lots of additional press, including lots of takes like this and this that focus on how it’s the latest in an emerging trend of movies that include a gay romance that’s treated as if it’s no big deal and just as normal and traumatizing as a hetero love interest storyline.
There’s also this profile of Kathryn Newton, who plays one of the girls in the movie who’s part of the sex pact and who has been in a number of high-profile films and series in the last year or so.