release date: 20 February 2015 (Canada)
run time: 104 mins
director: Ari Sandel
starring: Mae Whitman, Robbie Amell, Bella Throne, Bianca A. Santos, Skyler Samuels, Romany Malco, Nick Eversman, Chris Wylde, Ken Jeong, Allison Janney, Rebecca Weil
movie summary: High school can be the best time or worse time of your life. Your experience will all depend on who you are and what social group you’re a part of. Bianca Piper (Mae Whitman) is a smart and shy girl in her senior class that happens to have a crush on the school’s hottest musician, Tobey (Nick Eversman). She’s never had the courage to talk to him despite being the social butterfly of her friend circle. Her best friends Jess (Skyler Samuels) and Casey (Bianca A. Santos) are two of the best looking girls in the class and all three work on the newspaper. One night at a party, Wes (Robbie Amell) the school’s star quarterback, explains to Bianca that she is their DUFF (Designated Ugly Fat Friend). Bianca loses her mind on him and storms out of the party to go home and cry. Over the next few days she begins to notice that she is in fact the DUFF and that there many other DUFFs around the school. Since Wes is struggling in chemistry and needs to pass the class to stay on the football team, Bianca makes him an offer that she’ll help him if he gives her a make over.
my thoughts: The DUFF may be geared towards the young audience, like teenagers in high school, but that did not steer me away from watching it. When I first caught the trailer I added the movie to my watch list because it looked to be hilarious. I went to see this movie last night with a few friends and the audience was jammed packed with young girls and their boyfriends. The best part of the whole night was listening to some guys near the top row laugh at everything and provide some funny comments of their own to go along with the story. It was really the perfect atmosphere to watch an outrageous high school comedy, that was overly predictable, but worth every minute.
Mae Whitman, as Bianca Piper, is the shining light that provides The DUFF with the glow it needs to be a great high school comedy. This rebel girl doesn’t care what other people think of her clothes, how socially awkward she can be, or that she is not in the super popular club. Bianca is just a simple girl with two best friends, a crazy mom named Dottie (Allison Janney), and appears to be really happy with her life. Everything she knows gets turned upside down when the hottest guy in school informs her that her whole life is a mirage, that everything doesn’t appear to be the way she sees it. In an attempt to become really cool, her character will undergo a make over to get a guy to like her and to drop the dreaded DUFF title. Wes pushes her to open up and step outside of her box which turns out to be really hilarious after the first few test runs. She puts herself in so many awkward situations by asking out random guys, making out with mannequins, and trying out the most ridiculous outfits at the mall. Bianca is willing to go to the extremes to get Tobey to look her and will stop at nothing to entertain us on her pursuit of that dream.
Wes meanwhile is the straw that stirs the drink in the movie. Robbie Amell has the appearance and charm to be the school’s best jock, while being the nice guy that is willing to take the uncoordinated Bianca under his wing. Despite being the school’s biggest flirt, he has no clue how to help Bianca and creates a multiple step program on the fly that gets funnier every time something doesn’t go according to plan. When the situation calls for it, Wes will get his creative juices flowing to make the best out of the situation and ease Bianca’s stress levels. There are several moments throughout the film when you want to punch Wes in the face, while other times you are happy that he is not the typical good-looking jock and can actually be a nice guy. The only lead character that factors into the big picture is Bella Throne’s Madison character. Throne is slowly developing into the every day Mean Girl of high school movies and really struts her stuff here. As the most beautiful and popular girl in the school, there’s no trick that she won’t use to keep Wes on a leash whether she’s with him or not. Bianca means nothing to her and no secret is safe when Madison wants to bury her. In the typical rumor filled storyline, Madison and Bianca don’t hold anything back when they go head to head in a competition of who cares more about their reputation.
A lot of people will see the trailer and want to catch this movie because the ever comical Ken Jeong is in the movie. He plays Mr. Arthur, the teacher who oversees the school newspaper. Bianca dreads his assignments because he tries his hardest to break her out of her social shell much to her disapproval. His counterpart in the school is Principal Buchanan, played by Romany Malco. These two are over the top and out of their league in the present day school setting, but it was a riot to watch them try their best to keep everything in order.
my final thoughts: The DUFF had a throwback feel to high school movies of decades past, while being one of the funniest comedies of early 2015. It may be cheesy, corny, and predictable at times, but thanks to Mae Whitman’s hilarious performance, this movie is more than worth the price of admission. Robbie Amell and Bella Throne really round out a stellar young cast that struggle with their identities, while they avoid being someone’s DUFF.
my star rating: 8 out 10
imdb: 7.2 out 10
rottentomatoes: 64% out 100%
roger ebert: 3.5 out 4
richard crouse: 3 out 5