It’s an age old teen comedy story… You’ve seen it before. Boy and girl don’t like each other, but make some kind of deal to help one another with something in their lives they are struggling with. Their completely separately lives merge and dislike becomes like. Throw in a wrong turn or a two, finally coming back around to a happy ending, and you’ve got the gist of it. Don’t let this stop you from going to see The DUFF. It takes the age old teenage story and has a ridiculous amount of fun with it!
I walked into the movie theater, and as it filled with teenage girls (and some boys), I started wondering if I had made a gigantic mistake. I worried that I was not the audience the movie would be geared toward and that I would therefore find myself sitting in a movie, just waiting for it to be over. I couldn’t have been more wrong. While the story is not necessarily original, it was carried out with such joy and wit, there was practically no way to walk out of the theater without a smile.
Our lead protagonist, Bianca Piper (Mae Whitman) is quirky, but not necessarily at the bottom of the high school totem pole of popularity. She has a couple close friends, good grades, participates in extra-curricular activities, and appears to be successful. But then next door neighbor and jock football captain, Wesley Rush (Robbie Amell) makes an off-handed comment at a party about Bianca’s role as a DUFF (Designated Ugly Fat Friend), and it quickly brings Bianca’s self-esteem to an all-time low. She observes, finds that she indeed is there only as a gate-keeper to her “prettier” friends, and decides to separate from the pack to become more than the invisible DUFF. She consults with Wes in an attempt to escape from the DUFF role, in exchange for providing him assistance with his failing chemistry grade. Hijinks and montages ensue as Wes attempts to “un-DUFF” Bianca, much the chagrin of his on and off again girlfriend (Bella Thorne). Feelings develop between the two, but Bianca is out to get the interest of Toby (Nick Eversman). I won’t ruin the ending, but if you’ve seen any high school comedy, I’m sure you’ve figured it out.
The film tells an age-old story of life as a high school student, but it does so with great attention paid to today’s teenager. We see computers and cell phones, hashtags and social media references. Labels and popups and text bubbles are sprinkled through the film, but are done so with care, emphasizing and enhancing points and not detracting from the story. Even better, the film used the relationship between students today and social media to touch on the topic of cyber-bullying. While not a focal point of the story, it adroitly managed the topic and its relevance in the generation today. The story also adeptly walks the waters of self-esteem during teen years and the struggle with identity and making one’s best self. Are there penis jokes and innuendos galore? Sure! It’s a movie geared toward a teen and tween (mostly female) audience. However, the writers were conscious of the potential impact of the film and chose to lead it in a positive direction.
All that being said – the movie was fun and lovable! The actors clearly have an ease with one another which reflected in their performances. I don’t want to say that Robbie Amell stole every scene… but he did. It’s not necessarily because he’s eye candy (although I don’t hear anyone complaining). Creating a charming character who breaks the jock stereotype by illustrating a multi-layered personality, his character Wes was full of sarcasm and witty remarks smartly delivered with excellent comedic timing. Mae Whitman is a worthy counterpart, playing into the conventional “every girl” role while saying all the things we wish we were saying to ourselves. Once again, the comedic timing was spot-on and a little physical comedy goes a long way! In fact, let’s be honest – all the supporting cast was pretty hilarious too! There was never a moment of anyone trying too hard to be humorous. They all were genuine and each unique in their humor, original in their oddities.
The DUFF is a must-see. For a long time, my go-to movie was She’s the Man as Amanda Bynes, Channing Tatum, and cast followed a Shakespearean story (12th Night) with a sports and comedic twist. The DUFF easily tops that on my list and will be promptly bought upon its release to DVD in a few months down the road. You can take your 50 Shades of Gray, I’ll take The DUFF.