In case you’re as curious as I was, a ‘duff’ is a designated ugly fat friend. According to the tag line, you either know one, you have one, or you are one. While you might be expecting a “Mean Girls” you’ll find this movie far more similar to “Easy-A”.
We start out the movie meeting Bianca, (Mae Whitman) a happy high school senior who is perfectly happy being the tomboy among her prettier friends (Skyler Samuels & Bianca Santos). That is until she learns she’s been designated the Duff by popular mean girl Madison (Bella Throne) and the name is sticking. So, after ignoring the advice of her high school principal (Ken Jeong) she partners up with Wesley (Robbie Amell), a slick jock, to help her win the heart of her crush Toby (Nick Eversman) and leave her Duff label behind.
Despite the fact that these kids don’t look like anyone I went to high school with, I have to say the casting director did an excellent job. Mae Whitman has a special kind of quirky chemistry, the kind that brings me back to Helen Page in Juno, and she slides into the roll easily, playing a character you root for. Robbie Amell is another huge talent, as he feels a lot like a boy just about every girl went to high school with (though a bit handsomer). This whole cast had a lot of chemistry and was a lot of fun to watch.
The thing that will keep this movie from being an instant classic was its fear to ‘go there”. Too many films leave too much out in the interest of making it to that PG-13 rating and a lot of stuff in the book didn’t make it to the film adaptation, which was a shame. After all, the book was written by a girl in her senior year of high school. If anyone knows what it’s like, the author did. But failure to follow the book enough turns this film into a watered down version that could have been a lot harder hitting.
Because of that, the whole film’s message about inner beauty becomes almost half hearted and the movie rings shallow more than once. On top of that, almost constant references to current pop culture things like Snapchat and such, are going to make this movie feel dated pretty quickly. It’s not going to make it to teen comedy classic, that’s for sure.
I think ever single generation gets their own “She’s All That.” It’s that nerdy girl gets a makeover and becomes beautiful film that isn’t quite a classic, but is loved among its given generation. The Duff may well be this generation’s version.
A strong cast (if you can get over the fact that a bunch of 20 year olds are playing teenagers) and clever dialog make this movie watchable, and even enjoyable. Where it kind of falls apart is the message. In that case, it looks like the studio made the decision to go commercial over groundbreaking, and that’s a shame, because they had everything they needed to make it powerful.
Regardless, it’s still worth the watch, thought less tech savvy viewers might find themselves confused by all the app references.
WE GAVE IT: 3.5 Stars – Watch the Official Trailer and Official Movie Poster below!