Review: The Duff
PLOT: Bianca (Mae Whitman) has a lot going for her. Shes one of the smartest kids in her high school and has two popular best friends, Casey (Bianca A. Santos) and Jessica (Skyler Samuels), with the one caveat being her shyness around boys. Suddenly her life is turned upside down when a former childhood friend turned jock, Wesley (Robbie Amell) calls her a D.U.F.F, which he explains makes her the designated ugly fat friend to her two gorgeous pals.
REVIEW: I know that THE DUFF is supposed to be empowering. Maybe the YA novel its based on was, but to me THE DUFF aint no EASY A. The whole concept of a DUFF is moronic, made even more so by the fact that star Mae Whitman is neither ugly nor fat. The film tries to explain this away by having douche-extraordinaire Wesley explain, you dont really have to be ugly or fat, just less attractive than the people you hang around with. Because everyones standards of beauty are the same, right? Sigh.
If THE DUFF has really been empowering Whitmans Bianca would have flipped him off and went on with her life, but in fantasy-land, Bianca decides to ditch her good-natured pals (who continue trying to help her behind-the-scenes regardless) and do everything she can to fit in with what Wesley deems attractive. What makes it even worse is that natch she winds up falling for the ever-douchy Wesley (with the six-pack abs) and vice-versa, despite the maneuvering of Bella Thornes sociopathic Queen Bee, Madison.
Of course, this is just a typical high-school fantasy, but THE DUFF falls in line way more with dopey nineties efforts like SHES ALL THAT than classic John Hughes eighties movies, or more thoughtful recent efforts like THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER. Its doesnt help that most of the cast is way too old to be playing teens. Whitman and Amell are both twenty-six and look it. Amell, from THE FLASH on the CW takes every opportunity to flash (zing) his six-pack, but isnt he supposed to be like sixteen? Theres a bit where Amell parents are yelling at him thats unintentionally hilarious for how manly he looks. He looks older than Stockard Channing did in GREASE. I half expected a last-act twist where Whitman and Amell were revealed to be 21 JUMP STREET-style undercover cops (now THAT would have made this worth seeing!).
Still, most of the cast is appealing even if theyre woefully unsuited for their roles, particularly the always underrated Whitman. Its also fun to see the great Romany Malco show up as the school principal, making me wonder when someones going to give him a shot at leading his own comedy (which hes been due for since 2004s 40 YEAR OLD VIRGIN). Ken Jeong is also admirably toned-down as Whitmans favorite teacher, and its nice to see him play something with a little more heart.
In the end, THE DUFF isnt a terrible teen movie but its an absolutely generic one that will likely come and go pretty quick, with it not having the edge or heart to become a sleeper. Its a Netflix watch for tweens at best (older teens will see right through this) and its a pity that the film reaffirms labels rather than subverts them. They could have done something interesting with THE DUFF, but instead theyve just made a dopey comedy that will be forgotten in about a week.
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