Movie Review: The Duff (2015)

Posted: June 12, 2016 in Comedy, Romance
Tags: , , ,

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Bianca Piper (Mae Whitman) is an average looking girl with two attractive friends, Jess, (Skyler Samuels) and Casey. (Bianca Santos)  Bianca’s neighbor, a jock named Wesley Rush (Robbie Arnell) tells Bianca she’s a DUFF, designated ugly, fat, friend to Jess and Casey.  Bianca is understandably hurt, and breaks her friendship with Bianca and Casey.  Meanwhile, Wesley finds out that he’s failing chemistry and is temporarily off the football team, unless he gets his grades up.  Bianca hears about Wesley’s academic problems and has an idea, she will help Wesley bring his grades up, and he will help her become more confident socially.  Bianca has a crush on a guitar player named Toby. (Nick Eversman) Wesley agrees to the deal and takes Bianca to the mall to change Bianca’s look.  But an embarrassing video from Bianca’s day at the mall goes viral, and suddenly Bianca is a laughing stock.  Does Bianca recover?  Does she make up with Jess and Casey? Does she get a date with Toby?  Does Wesley pass chemistry?

This is a light romantic comedy, but it has issues.  First, Mae Whitman is neither fat, nor ugly, maybe by Hollywood’s skinny girl standards, she is fat, but in the real world, she is a great looking girl, and that works against the premise of the film.  The other issue is that it’s very conventional, it has all the usual teenage archetypes, the popular mean girl, the jock, the sensitive musician, and the plain girl.  What it does well, is illustrate what cyberbullying looks like in the era of social media and smartphones.  Bianca’s mom is also smarter than the usual movie teenager’s parent, so that’s a plus.  The movie has a twist, but the writers telegraph it, so it isn’t unexpected.  It’s very much like certain 80’s movies, Can’t Buy Me Love, The Sure Thing, and something like Revenge of the Nerds.

This is a movie where the acting actually raises the quality of the film.  Mae Whitman is a charming, bubbly, funny, intelligent girl, and her personality carries a lot of this movie. Robbie Arnell also does a surprisingly good job as Wesley, he is much more than the standard jock character, and has good chemistry with Mae Whitman. Allison Janney gives a nice supporting performance as Bianca’s intelligent mother.  Ken Jeong is also very funny in a small role as Bianca’s English teacher.

The director hasn’t directed a lot, but he kept the pacing fast, and he got very good performances from a mostly young cast.

Mae may be a star very soon.

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