Janet W., Here…
The Duff opens with a voice-over introduction by the female lead, Bianca (Mae Whitman), to the stereotypes of high school in true John Tucker Must Die or Breakfast Club style. Special effects are used to present labels of the different types (tough girl, etc.). With nearly the same shot composition of Jawbreaker and Juno, we see close-ups of beautiful girls as the narrator announces their qualities and then a quick admission that she was not either of them. Enter the scary nemesis, Madison (Bella Thorne) just like Not Another Teen Movie and She’s All That. So many other teenybopper films came to mind as I watched The Duff.
Mae Whitman’s Bianca is so much like Ellen Page’s Juno just a little more sassy, if that was possible. I don’t know if she was aiming for that, but if so NAILED IT. I thought I had never seen Whitman before. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that I’ve see her perform since she was the adorable little sister in When a Man Loves a Woman, Bye Bye Love, Independence Day, One Fine Day, Hope Floats, and she slipped pass my notice in Masters of Sex. I have literally watched her grow up on the screen. She was such an adorable little actress and I cannot wait see what she does as an adult. Bianca’s neighbor since she was a baby is Wesley (Robbie Amell). The yummy Robbie Amell. I had only seen Amell in Cheaper by the Dozen 2 as the hot Daniel Murtaugh, but I eagerly look forward to seeing his next project.
I really enjoyed Ken Jeong (The Hangover, Community, and Transformers: Dark of the Moon) as the student newspaper managing editor, Mr. Arthur. This man can do quirky humor with such a straight face that alone is hilarious. Although in small doses, it was nice to see Romany Malco as Principal Buchanon. I liked Malco in Think Like a Man. I must admit however that his role was quite cheesy, but this is a high school movie, so they had to make fun of the principal. However, my favorite addition was Bianca’s absentee mother, Dottie (Allison Janney). From Private Parts, Six Days Seven Nights, 10 Things I Hate About You, American Beauty, Juno and The Help to most recently Masters of Sex (where she rocks!), I have always adored Janney when I see her in a film or TV show. Janney brings a sassy straightforward comedy. I love how Dottie deals with a breakup (and you will too).
The Duff definitely was well scored. All of our favorite high school age music is mixed well with music of today to maintain the coming of age theme. There was a slight twist to the typical Hollywood formula of jocks and geeky chicks, but this film is nothing but predictable. You cannot argue that the formula doesn’t work, but I just wish they would shock me each time they pull it off the dusty shelf. What is a DUFF? Well, it is explained enough in the trailer for me to explain without it being a spoiler. A D.U.F.F. is a Designated Ugly Fat Friend. The film is very relatable, because I’m sure at one time or another all of us felt like the odd man/woman out. You may not have been ugly or fat, but we all have felt lesser than someone else no matter how short-lived an experience it was. Overall, I laughed enough to warrant The Duff as being a good movie. It is cheesy as a high school themed movie naturally is. Although this film is rated PG-13, I do not see it as a family friendly film, so leave the kiddos at home.
3 out of 5 Stars
– Janet L. White