The Kids Were Never the Focus of Blocker’s Marketing

It’s understandable that Lena Wilson would wonder why the gay crush storyline wasn’t a bigger part of the marketing for Blockers. That particular point was absent from most everything released prior to release and only really came out (so to speak) once the film had opened and people started to write about it and ask director Kay Cannon what it was that lead to its inclusion.

I haven’t seen the movie yet myself, but there did seem to be a substantial disconnect between what was sold and what people saw in theaters. When it screened at SXSW there were quite a few reviews, echoed later on when it was released, calling it sweet and heartfelt, a remarkably sensitive portrayal of teens and their parents who are having a hard time dealing with their maturing and increasingly-independent daughters.

Wilson rightly points out that the coming out storyline for one of the teen girls was completely absent from the campaign. I agree with that. Where I disagree with her is in her framing of the campaign as one designed to sell a “teen sex comedy.”

As I reviewed the campaign it was a bit surprising to me how little the kids seemed to be the focus of the marketing at all. Of course they’re there, but only as devices to spur action on the parents who follow them all over town in an attempt to keep them from having sex. The trailers give us brief looks into the relationships between the girls and their parents and we see the friends agreeing to #SexPact2018, but the focus is squarely on how the adults feel about all this.

Who the girls are or aren’t crushing on is barely covered at all. We get a look at their dates only sparingly, with no background or context given. The most complex picture we get is when one of them is explaining to her date that they *are* going to have sex later that night, something he seems remarkably oblivious to.

It’s true that Sam’s same sex crush isn’t called out, but the campaign doesn’t have much attention to devote to the teens at all, much less draw any nuanced picture of the dynamics – romantic or otherwise – in that friend group.

To a large extent that’s the result of the adult cast simply being the bigger perceived draw for audiences. Casting Leslie Mann, John Cena and Ike Barinholtz means you’re aiming the movie at older, not younger, moviegoers. Not that those actors don’t have younger fans, but the message here is that the story is going to be more relatable to Gen X parents who have teenagers themselves and would like to laugh at something relatable, namely how the parent/child dynamic is different when the kids are 18 than it is when they’re 8.

The decision to take that approach with the framing of the movie to the audience seems to have been taken in large part because it was decided this would be Cena’s big break into starring roles. There were more than a few profiles of the wrestler-turned-actor where he, the cast of this movie and others discussed how funny he is, why he turned to comedy after unsuccessful attempts to be an action star and more.

I don’t agree that there was a missed opportunity to make Blockers part of the normalization of same-sex coming of age teen movies, especially arriving as it did around the same time as Love, Simon, for which that was the dominant media narrative. In order to do that, though, the studio would have needed to devote more than passing attention to the teens that were part of the story. It made the decision to not do that.

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.

Picking Up the Spare – Blockers, Lean on Pete, A Quiet Place and More

6 Balloons

There have been a few profiles of Abbi Jacobson in the wake of the movie’s release, most of which focus on how different this is from “Broad City,” which she’s most widely known for and her first real dramatic role.


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.

Lean on Pete

Star Charlie Plummer was interviewed here about all aspects of the movie, from being cast in the role to the kind of story he and the others were trying to tell to working with the horse he stars alongside.

A Quiet Place

In addition to a few more features about how married costars John Krasinksi and Emily Blunt worked together for the first time there was also Krasinski in his role as director talking about how he pushed to cast a deaf actress, specifically Millicent Simmonds.


More interviews popped as the movie neared release, including chats with Rosamund Pike and director Tony Gilroy.

I’ve also begun seeing a lot more online ads for the movie, most of which use the key art of Hamm in sunglasses with Pike behind him. There’s likely a lot of retargeting going on as a result of my visiting the movie’s website.

Come Sunday

Lakeith Stanfield talks here about prepping for the role of a church musician in the movie.

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.

Picking Up the Spare: Game Over Man, The Last Movie Star and More

Game Over, Man

I’m not sure what the point of this “VR Experience” for the Netflix-original movie was other than to show what stoned losers the main characters are, but it’s kind of amusing in and of itself.

The Last Movie Star

There’s a new music video featuring footage from the movie for one of the songs off the soundtrack by Stranger Friends, one of the 12 the young band has on the album.

Love After Love

Another interview with Andie MacDowell about her career and taking on the role in the movie.


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.

Lean on Pete

Director Andrew Haugh speaks here about how he worked to tell the story of working-class residents of the Pacific Northwest in an authentic, respectful and non-cliche way.

You Were Never Really Here

A joint interview here with Joaquin Phoenix and Lynne Ramsay about the working relationship they developed and the story they were trying to tell in the movie.


Great points here at Indiewire that if Paramount found the movie was going to be too tough a sell, that’s partly because of a system that emphasizes IP-based movies and other blockbusters. And if audiences are upset by the movie heading (in international markets) quickly to Netflix, it’s partly because they’ve failed to turn out for difficult, complex movies and made studios question their commercial viability.


While I didn’t cover the campaign for the documentary, I couldn’t not mention that an AR app was launched by IMAX that allowed users to see a anthropomorphized panda in the real world they could ask questions to. You can see the trailer here.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Screenwriter Tony Gilroy has made comments about the troubled state of affairs he inherited prior to the much-discussed reshoots the film underwent. I’m not a huge fan of people throwing others under the bus like this, but that was a significant part of the movie’s pre-release media coverage.

A Quiet Place

The movie’s sound design has been a major topic of conversation in the press coverage and reviews, so it’s good that the team behind that work has finally gotten a profile of their own.

Director/star John Krasinski and costar/wife Emily Blunt talk here about what, if any, political messages the movie has for audiences.

Outside In

Star Edie Falco has done a bit more press than she did prior to release, including this “Late Night” appearance where she joked around with host Seth Meyers.


Also getting in on the late night circuit is Jason Clarke, who still oddly dominates the press cycle for this movie over costar Kate Mara. I guess that’s the advantage of playing a Kennedy.

The Death of Stalin

Writer/director Armando Iannucci talks about the need for dark comedy and gallows humor in the midst of a slightly depressing reality.

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.

Blockers – Marketing Recap

blockers poster 2John 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.

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