Whoever said that your school days are the best days of your life must have been high on drugs the whole time. Teen movies have been showing us the horrors of high school in a light, comedic way for years. Now newcomer The DUFF aims to join the ranks of great High School movies. But will it be the DUFF of teen comedies?
High school senior Bianca (Mae Whitman) is enjoying her final year at school with her two best friends. That is until jock Wesley (Robbie Amell) tells her that she’s the DUFF – Designated Ugly Fat Friend – of her social group. Wanting to rid herself of her DUFF status Bianca sets out to reinvent her image, even if that means getting help from Wes. But despite their differences and their fighting could there be something between Bianca and Wes?
The DUFF could easily have been a msifire, however it manages to be a funny and likeable teen movie. It aspires to be a spiritual successor to 10 Things I Hate About You and Mean Girls, and while it doesn’t manage to be quite on that level it’s also a hell of a lot better than the average high school comedy.
A lot of praise goes to a funny script, assured direction and the two charming leads in Whitman and Amell. Whitman makes for a sympathetic, snarky lead who is in no way fat or ugly (although the film goes to great lengths to say a DUFF doesn’t have to be fat or ugly, just more approachable than their more popular friends). Amell looks too old to be a high school senior but he does manage to make the arrogant and insensitive Wes have more depth and become more likable than he initially appears. The chemistry between the two leads also makes you believe that the two characters would actually like each other deep down.
The film is adapted from the novel of the same name by Kody Keplinger and has made a lot of changes to the source material. So if fans were hoping to see how the film handles Bianca’s relationship with her alcoholic dad, or her and Wes’s enemies with benefits relationship they will be surprised to see these key plot points erased from the film. While the changes gives a more cinematic narrative, it’s a shame some of the novel’s darker aspects weren’t explored better. Also added to the film is mean girl wannabe Madison (Bella Thorne) to give Bianca a proper enemy for the movie. Thorne is passable in the role, but it’s no different from the thousand Regina George copycats we’ve seen since Mean Girls came out in 2004 (has it really been that long?). And of course it all has to climax at the school dance, another high school cliché.
Despite it ticking off the majority of teen comedy troupes, complete with a Be Yourself message, The DUFF manages to overcome any shortcomings with its likeable leads, especially from rising star Whitman.
Rating 3.5/5 – full of charm, laughs and romance, being The DUFF doesn’t seem so bad