Synopsis – A high school senior instigates a social pecking order revolution after finding out that she has been labeled the DUFF – Designated Ugly Fat Friend – by her prettier, more popular counterparts.
My Take – Back in the 90s or I could say maybe early 2000s Teen comedies were the thing! The American Pie series & Ten Things I Hate About You are some of the films which come 1st to mind! Being a kid growing up during that period, this kind of films hold a special place for me! Of course, like it always happens in Hollywood, if a genre works studios make sure it runs it course to mediocrity. Despite the concept of this film seems to be leaning a bit more towards teenage girls, I have to admit – I actually liked this film! I have never heard the term Duff before and I don’t know if it exist in real culture, but it sure made for a humorous movie. Based upon Kody Keplinger’s 2010 novel director Ari Sandel have given us a fascinating topic. The character itself has been seen in every teen movie ever. It’s always the main protagonist, the semi-cooler kid that wants the protagonist to party and the third wheel, that now has a name. For the first time in teen comedy history(I think) that third wheel got it’s own flick and it turns out the character itself is funnier than the one liners we had it say over the course of time. The story follows high-school senior Bianca (Mae Whitman) who finds out that she is the DUFF (Designated Ugly Fat Friend) of her attractive childhood buddies Casey (Bianca Santos) & Jessica (Skyler Samuels) friends.
Determined to change her DUFF image and impress her crush Toby (Nick Eversman), she turns to her popular rival/ neighbor Wesley Rush (Robbie Amell) to give her a complete makeover. Meantime, resident ‘mean girl’ drama queen Madison (Bella Thorne of “Blended”), who has had an on-again, off-again relationship with Wesley, has decided to renew their romance. Things come to a boil when Wesley’s poor chemistry grades jeopardize his status as captain of the high school football team. Simultaneously, Bianca marvels at the ease with which Wesley navigates the social order. Bianca cuts a deal with Wesley. She will tutor Wesley in chemistry, if he will show her how to attract the attention of her dream guy. Naturally, green-eyed Madison has kept an eye on Wesley and Bianca from afar, and she plots Bianca’s demise if she doesn’t leave her Wesley alone. Through her journey of transformation, Bianca gains self confidence and shows the school that everybody is a DUFF. Though it sounds very cruel when spelled out, abbreviated it just means your not as cool or as hot as the friends you hang around, and if your a teenage girl who was made aware of this by your idiot jock next store neighbor without previous knowledge that you were different from your herd, that could put you on a downward spiral. Indeed, the film is predictable, particularly if you’ve seen as many teen makeover movies as I have, but top-notch casting, charismatic characters, and suspenseful situations elevate this comedy above the standard stuff. This movie is just more proof that teenagers don’t change (technology does and social media plays a very large part in this movie), which is why the movie seems formulated. I would not spoil anything if I told you how it ends so long as you have seen a teen comedy before. Yet, the movie is hilarious & deep at the same time. Most comedy movies are really funny, yet pointless or lack an overall message. I laughed so often and even shed a tear in a heartfelt scene. The facial expressions are priceless and memorable. I respect this film for being extremely funny while also having a deep, motivational moral lesson and theme. The movie has a lot of references that are very comical. One example is an episode of the Simpsons that the movie shows. The movie also has really entertaining graphics that make the movie even more unique, some of this include labels and an interactive screen effect. Like most teen movies in a high school setting, this clever comedy categorizes its characters by archetypes. The film assembles the traditional gallery of crude egotistical jocks, bitchy babe princesses, and oblivious adults–whether they are administrators, instructors, or parents.
Director Ari Sandel orchestrates the action around the most prominent high school happening: prom. All makeover movies, whether good or bad, are ranked by how challenging the obstacle course is, and if the teens can triumph. Naturally, our resourceful heroine achieves her goal, but she has to sidestep the slings and arrows of her treacherous enemies along the way. The standout in this cast is Mae Whitman in the front and center as Bianca Piper. Whitman proves she can carry a feature film. She is great here as this girl who overcomes obstacles with school, labels, and being date-able. The next standout is Bella Thorne, who plays the popular Madison Morgan. Thorne turns in a heck of a performance as the bitchy girl who thinks she is better than everyone else. I like the character of Robbie Amell because he doesn’t come off as a typical jock although he is dating the trash of the school, he actually is a nice guy to Biancia. He is immensely likeable & funny. Samuels, Santos, Allison Janney, Ken Jeong, and Romany Malco do a nice job in their respective roles. On the whole, ‘The Duff’ is hilarious, relate able and worth watching! Despite the predictability, & little bit too much girlishness (not being a sexist here) for my taste I did enjoy this picture more than i thought i would. I never knew who Mae Whitman was before this picture. I remember seeing her on the TV show called “Arrested Development” and she has always been in supporting roles. You get the sense that she can work with anyone and the chemistry that comes off works. Would love to see more of her! This film should be loved by teens and even a few adults that either were this person who knew someone that was.
Director – Ari Sandel
Rated – PG13
Run Time – 101 minutes