High school was a few years ago for me now, but that doesn’t stop me or the vast majority of females in my generation from getting excited whenever a new high school chick flick is released. But, when it comes to this genre, you’re never quite sure what you’re going to get – some are total flops, while others (think Mean Girls and Easy A) soar to new heights of teen-based entertainment. Based on the novel of the same name, The DUFF falls somewhere in the middle of this high school rom-com spectrum.
Bianca (Mae Whitman) is your average high school senior. She’s not popular, but not a geek, and she has two great best friends, who also happen to be two of the hottest girls in school. But her relatively content high school life is flipped on its head when she finds out that, like the jocks and the basket cases, she too has a label: the DUFF (Designated Ugly Fat Friend). As the DUFF, her job is to be the approachable face for her two more attractive friends, and it’s not something Bianca wants to be.
Enlisting the help of her childhood friend Wesley (Robbie Amell), Bianca sets out to de-DUFF herself. But with Wesley’s on-and-off-again girlfriend Madison (Bella Thorne) hell bent on making Bianca the laughing stock of the school yard, will Bianca ever be able to shake the degrading label?
Compared to other films of its genre (which, granted, isn’t for everyone), The DUFF has some real strong points. Mae Whitman’s performance as Bianca strikes the perfect balance between comedy and heart, making her an incredibly likable protagonist. You get very invested in her story and what happens to her, even if it is cliché and unrealistic, and she has this dry wit about her that keeps you thoroughly entertained. The surprise performance came from Robbie Amell as the uber-attractive love interest Wesley, who ended up bringing a little more depth to what could have otherwise been a very two-dimensional character. Bella Thorne was a little nauseating as Queen-B Madison, and while every good high school movie needs a popular villain, she took the mean girl stereotype a little too far.
The DUFF is funny and romantic, and does that magical thing where it transports you back to your high school self, when love was still this shiny and exciting thing to discover. But, just like your high school perceptions, this film is based on a lot of clichés, with every twist and turn so obviously mapped out that you could probably explain the entire plot from watching the first five minutes. Some scenes just seemed too far-fetched to be true, and while it was outlined in the film that the DUFF didn’t have to be fat nor ugly, everyone in the film was just a little too beautiful, which could be alienating for teen audiences.
Far-fetched or not, The DUFF is still a fantastically fun ride, and perfect for anyone who enjoys an easy-breezy high school rom-com. I know I do!
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