The DUFF – Movie Review by Frances Winston
Directed by: Ari Sandal
Starring: Mae Whitman, Robbie Amell, Bella Thorne, Bianca A. Santos, Skyler Samuels, Allison Janney, Ken Jeong, Nick Eversman
In cinemas April 6th
This isn’t an homage to Homer Simpsons favourite beer but rather an acronym for “Designated Ugly Fat Friend”. Although this is set in a high school in the grand Hollywood tradition both Whitman and Amell are actually 26 although they would (just about) pass for the 17 year olds they are supposed to be playing.
Whitman plays Bianca who is friends with the hugely popular Jess and Casey (Samuels and Santos). When she attends a party and her neighbour and childhood friend, handsome football star Wesley (Amell) inadvertently tells her she is the DUFF she is horrified. Hurt, mortified and seeing all hopes of getting together with her crush Toby (Eversman) slipping away she unfriends Jess and Casey and makes a deal with Wes that she will tutor him for exams if he will coach her in how not to be the DUFF. Unfortunately his ex-girlfriend Madison (Thorne) looms large and revels in humiliating Bianca at every opportunity. Despite this she manages to score a date with Toby but all does not go to plan and she soon realises that maybe what she wants may be closer to home.
This is your standard ugly duckling story that has been done since the dawn of cinema. Yes, it features contemporary references and modern technology but it is exactly the same film you have seen a million times. That’s not to say that it doesn’t have merits. Whitman has a wry wit that works well for the cynical Bianca while Amell has somewhat more depth than you expect from your standard teen rom com beefcake. Thorne really shines as the bitchy wannabe Madison who dreams of getting her own reality show and scarily you will realise that we all know people like that.
Alison Janney is fabulous as Bianca’s mother but sadly underused as is Ken Jeong who plays one of Bianca’s teachers. The focus here is very much on the kids, which is as it should be since it is a teen rom com.
This is entertaining enough. It’s no Easy A and Whitman is no Emma Stone but the chemistry with the leads makes it watchable on the whole. You can see a lot of the plot coming a mile away and the script is standard fare but it is inoffensive and at just over an hour and a half it doesn’t outstay its welcome.
This won’t set the world on fire and is unlikely to become a teen classic but it will engage you in its whimsy and leave you entertained and will have you sizing up groups of friends to figure out the DUFF for weeks afterwards.