The DUFF: Easy-Going Teen Comedy
Although it’s nowhere near creative as other similarly-plotted teen-dramas out there– see Easy A, Mean Girls, 10 Things I Hate About You – as far as high-school comedies go, The DUFF is expectedly formulaic, but is far from the worst film you’ll see this year.
Loosely based on the novel of the same name – written by the seventeen-year-old Kody Keplinger – the story is centred on Bianca Piper (Whitman); a quirky, socially-awkward and zombie-movie-loving high-school senior who spends most of her time hanging out with her two ‘more attractive’ best-friends, Casey (Santos) and Jess (Samuels).
Known for her laid-back look – which involves a lot of overalls and plaid – and casual approach to life, Bianca is considered somewhat of a loner by her other schoolmates; someone who has learned to turn a deaf ear to all the high-school drama and a girl that pretty much abides to her own set of rules. However, she soon receives the shock of her life when her childhood friend and neighbour, super-hot jock Wesley (Amell), informs her – very nonchalantly – that she is in fact a DUFF; a Designated Ugly Fat Friend who is only used to make her other friends look good in comparison.
Astounded and saddened by his statement, Bianca soon makes a deal with Wesley and asks him to – in exchange for Chemistry tutoring – help her shake of her DUFF image and turn herself into someone who Toby (Eversman) – Bianca’s long-haired and guitar-playing crush – might even consider dating.
Adapted to the screen by Josh A. Cagan, the story embodies a long list of teen-drama tropes and its only the occasional witty and sharp writing that elevates the film above being just another teen movie. Heavy on social media references and pop-culture nods, The DUFF is kept afloat by a well-assembled cast of performers who, apart from a couple of half-baked characters – including Thorne as the evil Queen Bee – manage to keep the film above the standard teen framework. Mae Whitman – remember that adorable little girl who played the President’s daughter in Independence Day? – is all grown-up and delivers the highlight performance; her spot-on comedic timing and sharp wit is a fantastic match for Amell’s surprisingly layered and sincere performance as Wesley.
Yes, The DUFF is a film we’ve all seen a million times before and anyone who has ever sat-through at least one high-school comedy in the past already knows what to expect. However, that doesn’t mean it’s any less enjoyable. On the contrary; it’s sweet, easy-going and fun.