Something has to take down the dominating giant, 50 Shades of Grey. In its first weekend, it made far too much money. What we need now is a hero, something to make us forget about being tortured and abused. The DUFF is sadly not the hero we need.
There was once a time when high school comedies ruled the land. Then, John Hughes stopped making them. His influence was felt throughout the ’80s and ’90s as teen comedies were mass-produced to the point of over-consumption. The end of the ’90s brought us some of the better movies in the genre with Can’t Hardly Wait and 10 Things I Hate About You. There were a few good ones in the early 2000s, but for every Mean Girls or Bring It On, there was an I Love You, Beth Cooper or John Tucker Must Die.
It’s rare that these types of movies are even financed anymore. And if they are, they usually just premiere on the Disney Channel.
The DUFF stands for Designated Ugly Fat Friend. In this case it might as well be the Derivative Unnecessary Forgettable Film.
Mae Whitman plays Bianca, a sarcastic middle-class girl who makes it her business to label everyone she goes to school with. Early on, she is told by jockish Wesley (Robbie Amell) that she is the DUFF in her group of friends. Her only purpose is to make her friends look cute in comparison to her. Bianca makes it her mission to redeem her image. She reluctantly asks for Wesley’s help, in exchange for helping him pass his science exams. Even though these two seem to be worst enemies, they both realize qualities within themselves that are deeper than labels…
You can see where this is going a mile away.
I guess that’s kind of the charm with high school comedies. They’re predictable. They’re comfort food for the tween soul. These glorified versions of high school attempt to depict accurate social-media driven views on how things are for teens. None of it feels sincere. Rather, it feels like what it is, a 40 year old script writer doing his best to make every character the most clever person in the room.
The DUFF isn’t unlikable. You’ll never find yourself hating it. The problem is that it throws countless jokes at the wall and none of them stick.
You may remember Mae Whitman as the voice of Tinkerbell or the grumpy daughter on Parenthood. She has a great presence on the screen. At 27, she is far too old to be playing a high school senior, but she has the look of someone far younger. Whitman is essentially an Ellen Page type, if Page was able to show any other emotion but mopey. The DUFF sometimes remembers that it wants to be a fast-paced movie by throwing in snippets of style. Yet, it just seems like the writers once saw an Edgar Wright movie while they were drinking Diet Sprite and this is the best they could come up with.
This movie is social-media driven. Everyone gets their own hashtag at the beginning of the movie. At one point, when Bianca tries to separate herself from her friends, she does so by announcing that she’s unfollowed them on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and probably Friendster. The social media aspect is the one thing that this movie introduces into the genre. It’s basically the kind of movie that makes you want to ban your kids from having cell phones until they’re 25.
The young crowd at the screening seemed to really enjoy The DUFF. For what this movie is attempting to be, it’s successful. Yet, the audience it’s speaking to most likely haven’t seen Some Kind of Wonderful, Sixteen Candles or even She’s All That. The fact that The DUFF borrows everything from these movies makes it comfort food. However, it’s clear there is no originality.
The DUFF is rated PG-13, but teens under the age of 15 probably shouldn’t see it. It skirts the R rated line of vulgarity and subject matter. Anyone over the age of 19 has no reason to see this. C