The Duff Movie Review
You know you have one. And if you are insistent that your group of friends doesn't have one, you may be it. I'm of course speaking of The DUFF, also known as the Designated Ugly Fat Friend.
As bad as that sounds, the movie of the same name isn't as cynical or as demeaning to women as the title suggests. Mae Whitman (“Parenthood”) stars as Bianca, a high school girl who is cute but certainly not as hot as her two best friends. When her handsome, captain-of-the-football-team neighbor Wesley (Robbie Amell) informs her that she is the DUFF among her group of friends, she is appalled as any teenage girl would be if she were called ugly or fat, or worse--ugly fat.
The DUFF at least pretends it isn't one of the countless other teen films about an “ugly” or “plain” chick that gets a magical makeover and is suddenly turned into the hottest girl at school. Bianca's appearance really doesn't change drastically, and the film devotes more time to her becoming confident with who she is rather than changing who she is.
Of course, she still goes through changes to win over the guy, so if you're a glass-half-empty kind of person, The DUFF may still not be that much of a departure.
Regardless, the movie is consistently funny, relying on witty humor that you can tell was not written by some 60-year-old guy trying to use lingo he has no right using. I laughed out loud repeatedly throughout the film, and while The DUFF doesn't push any boundaries, any comedy that is thoroughly entertaining has done its job.
Both Whitman and Amell are terrific, and even more importantly have great chemistry together. I liked the unique dynamic between the two--and in some ways the gender swap--that allows the movie to feel fresh even when, at it's roots, it's a story that has been told before.
The DUFF only struggles when it slips into cliche conventions--the villainous Madison is the stereotypical hot bitch, and while Bella Thorne gives her some bite, the character as is feels a little out of place. It's also disappointing to see the movie end at a high school dance, another blasé move that is shrugworthy at best.
Though it doesn't always break from convention, The DUFF is a funny teen comedy that breathes fresh air into the genre.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.