The DUFF might not achieve the same status of Mean Girls or Easy A (to name two of recent memory), but it does have a few things going for it from an amiable cast to some witty writing and dialogue as well as a charming story, syrupy conclusion and all. It was far better than what I thought it would be and perhaps it’s worth a rental if you’re on the fence.
Genre(s): Comedy, Romance
Lionsgate | PG13 – 101 min. – $39.99 | June 9, 2015
THE MOVIE – 3.75/5
When I initially heard about The DUFF, I didn’t have high hopes but I have to admit, it’s not a bad little film that deserves to be in the ranks along with Mean Girls, Easy A, 10 Things I Hate About You and Can’t Hardly Wait as one of the better teen romantic comedies in the past couple decades. I’m not saying it tops any of those, MG and EA especially, but with a charismatic lead and some great and poignant references to others in the genre, it makes for a genuinely fun and heartfelt film.
The story centers on Bianca (MAE WHITMAN), an awkward high-schooler who hangs around two hotties, Casey (BIANCA SANTOS) and Jess (SKYLER SAMUELS), who clearly get all the attention of the boys as does queen bee and all around bully Madison (BELLA THORNE) who aspires to be a reality TV star. Bianca also has had a crush on the school’s crooner/guitar player Toby (NICK EVERSAN). Her parents are divorced with a father who fought to take the family dog while her mother (ALLISON JANNEY) has achieved fame writing a divorce self-help book.
One night while at a party she was dragged to by her besties, she learns from her ex-childhood friend and next door neighbor Wes (ROBBIE ARNELL) that she is a “DUFF” (a.k.a. Designated Ugly Fat Friend) of her group and points out that each clique has their own, a person who makes their friends look better and the gatekeeper for others to get info on those friends’ relationship status.
Understandably devastated by this (callous) revelation, Bianca intends on shedding her “DUFF” status first by breaking up with her gal pals and then making a deal with Wes: she’ll help him pass science class, which he needs to stay on the football team and get a college scholarship, and he will help change her style, teaching her the basics from talking to boys and dressing more girly. Here we can cue the clichéd yet always popular wardrobe change montage. In the meantime, Madison isn’t too keen on the pair’s sudden close relationship and intends to go all Mean Girls on Bianca’s ass posting embarrassing videos making her the school joke.
The DUFF might not be transformative teen rom-com or anything nor does it have the memorable lines compared with something like Mean Girls yet, and still acknowledging thse that came before starting out quoting The Breakfast Club, the one that perhaps started it all, it still manages to stand on its own with well rounded characters beginning with Mae Whitman who was perfectly cast in the lead and Robbie Amell’s ability to switch douch-baggery to charm in one scene.
The film was directed by Ari Sandel in his feature-length debut and is based upon the best-selling novel by the same name, though from what I’ve read online, this adaptation doesn’t bear a whole lot of resemblance. Even so, I found it quite funny from the start and while the ending does get syrupy with its after school message (be who you are, etc), The DUFF still is well worth watching between the witty writing and fun characters.
SPECIAL FEATURES – 2.0/5
This release comes with a matted slip cover. Inside is a redemption code for the Digital HD copy. Unfortunately what is included is rather light and it would’ve been fun to have a cast/crew commentary track…
The DUFF Hits the Red Carpet (3:30; HD) is merely footage at the premiere with sound bites by the cast.
Extended Gag Reel (3:15; HD) shows off some more line flubs in addition to the material during the end credits.
Bringing the Book to Life (2:15; HD) is a featurette on adapting the novel into the feature film.
Teen Comedies and The DUFF (2:04; HD) looks at the influences past teen movies had on this one.
I Am The DUFF (2:42; HD) is about what DUFF means.
The DUFF Files (7:21; HD) are profiles on the main characters.
VIDEO – 4.5/5
The DUFF arrives on Blu-ray presented in its original 2.35 widescreen aspect ratio and a 1080p high-definition transfer (MPEG-4 AVC codec). The picture is quite brilliant with sharp detail levels, vividly bright colors throughout with well balanced skin tones and no obvious flaws like aliasing or artifacts.
AUDIO – 3.5/5
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track offered isn’t anything spectacular but more than sufficient considering a fair portion of the film is dialogue driven. The track does come alive with some choice music for the many catchy songs. Although it’s not overly dynamic, it is still good enough considering the genre.
OVERALL – 3.5/5
Overall, The DUFF might not achieve the same status of Mean Girls or Easy A (to name two of recent memory), but it does have a few things going for it from an amiable cast to some witty writing and dialogue as well as a charming story, syrupy conclusion and all. It was far better than what I thought it would be and perhaps it’s worth a rental if you’re on the fence.
Brian Oliver aka The Movieman
Check out some more screen caps by going to page 2. Please note, these do contain spoilers.