“The Duff” is a funny and charming Teen Comedy based on a book by Kody Keplinger directed by Ari Sandel with a script written by Josh A. Cagan. It revolves around High School Senior Bianca (played by Mae Whitman) as she comes to a revelation thanks to resident High School Jock Wesley (played by Robbie Amell) that out of her group of friends including Jess (played by Skyler Samuels) and Casey (played by Bianca A. Santos) she is the group “Duff” aka the Designated Ugly Fat Friend. From this rude awakening, Bianca strives to completely re-invent and elevate herself from her situation. She enlists Wesley to do a complete 180 degree “Reverse Duff” transformation to give Bianca the confidence and look to get the guitar-playing guy of her dreams Toby(Nick Eversman), beat the status quo and to stick it to resident Mean Girl Madison (played by Bella Thorne) all in time for Senior Prom.
The story was rather structured and paced in a simple, snappy and non-surprising manner. It reminds anyone of the kind of movie that belonged to the era of Teen Comedy dramas back in the 90’s all the way to the Early 2000’s. Notable examples of this include classics like “She’s All That”, and especially the 2004 hit “Mean Girls”. The characters aren’t too different from the typical stereotypes you would remember from the films some of us grew up with. As told in the one of the trailers, the jock is still the jock and the Mean Girl is still the Mean Girl. Heck I’m not even too sure if some of the actors can really play High School anymore. However, the film does put effort into effectively placing it in a world full of Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter etc with the addition of modern day hashtags and youtube videos in different moments. It’s pretty clear that the filmmakers are in deed in touch with the youth of today with the use of the internet and famous sites like UrbanDictionary.com.
What really sells the film is Mae Whitman’s ability as the lead and the way she plays off everybody. It’s absolutely entertaining to watch. She is just so funny. Bianca is a likable lead character that can speak to teenagers watching the movies, always facing the hard pressures of adolescent life as well as the adults who’ve probably been just like her at one point in their lives. Her brand of quirkiness and hilarious hijinks will have the teens and some adults laughing. In the end, audiences will find themselves rooting for Bianca as she learns to embrace her qualities and becomes better because of it whether it’d be booing at the boy who turned her down or the moment she stands up to Madison.
Robbie Amell’s character Wesley was also fun to watch as well. On the surface, he comes across as the dumb jock you always see in films like these, however it’s not entirely the case most of the time. In one scene, after an implied fight with his parents, the scene then reveals a guy who’s struggling just like the rest of us. His interactions with Mae Whitman’s character provide entertaining comedic banter. Audiences will find them chuckling along to the witty snappy dialogue as well as some “improv”. If you watch the movie, you’ll know exactly what was meant by that.
The other notable performances in the film include Bella Thorne as Madison. She plays the resident Mean Girl who I’d say puts herself up there with other high school film antagonists but it would have taken more to put herself up there with the likes of Regina George. Allison Janney plays the mother who is the modern day divorced parent and Ken Jeong plays the journalism teacher. Both of them have their respective laugh out loud moments with the latter being a little more funny than he typically was as see in shows like Community.