Do you ever hear about a film and think ‘this is about me’? Well, that’s the feeling I got when I heard about The DUFF. In a self-centred way, this made a film that I am in no way the target demographic for appeal to me more than it normally would have. Even though I’m slightly older than high school age (no jokes please), I flat-out refuse to grow up, so I still feel a connection to the humour and set up of films like this. Putting these things together, as well as some good word of mouth before release meant that I was actually quite looking forward to The DUFF.
Before I say anything else, there is one major gripe I have to get out-of-the-way. I hate it in films when somebody is meant to be unattractive, or in this case ugly and fat, and they clearly aren’t. Mae Whitman who plays the DUFF (or Designated Ugly Fat Friend) is clearly good-looking enough to play a female lead in any situation, and to claim that she is the ‘ugly’ one is ridiculous. I’m sure there are plenty of actresses who would fit the bill a lot better, and a lot that aren’t getting as much work as Mae Whitman is either. In defence of The DUFF, this is a problem with films in general so I can’t use it as too much of a black mark.
Even though that was initially annoying, if the film was funny enough I knew it would be easy to look past it. At some points, it definitely was. The aforementioned Mae Whitman is very good in the role of wise cracking Bianca, even if she doesn’t fit the bill physically, as is Robbie Amell as next door neighbour / stereotypical high school jock Wesley. Most of the supporting cast are very good too, with Ken Jeong, Romany Malco and Chris Wylde all shining in small roles as teachers, and I often felt that the performances deserved better material to work with.
It’s not that the script or the story are particularly weak, just so very run of the mill. It’s a shame that after the same story (or a very similar one at least) has been put on-screen so many times, the effort isn’t being made to change it up at all. There is no deviation from the usual and expected story, and there are no surprises of any kind. Horror is a genre that gets a lot of flack for being formulaic and having no original ideas, but romantic comedies are far worse. It’s just a shame that a film that had the potential to break out of this mould and be different was anything but, which ironically is completely against the message it’s trying to send.
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