Small, but effective. So this is about a high school senior (Mae Whitman) who is a touch on the odd side, but has a closely knit circle of friends. When her neighbor (Robbie Amell) brings it to her attention that she is her group’s DUFF (Designated Ugly Fat Friend), she decides to start making some changes. When this started, I really wasn’t sure about how I felt about it; high school social hierarchies can be pretty brutal, and it sometimes doesn’t lead to the most likable characters. Imagine my surprise when I found myself not only enjoying myself watching it, but actually making a connection with the film.
There are a number of levels where this film unexpectedly succeeds, with the largest one being that it’s really funny. Mae Whitman has really come into her own, and she has always had this comedic ability ever since she played Ann Hog on Arrested Development. She has a natural timing, and knows how to deliver a punchline with moxie. Also, she’s not THAT hideous. She’s actually pretty cute despite her homeliness, but as the movie explains, it is all relative; there are attractive people all over the place that have that odd one out that are there to make the others look better, and if you don’t know who the DUFF is, it’s you. The story itself may be on the formulaic side, but there are enough surprises throughout that keep you engaged.
Like Chris Wylde popping up. The only time I’ve seen him this past decade was for a small role in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Does anybody else remember the Chris Wylde Show on Comedy Central?
In addition to just being enjoyable, this actually has a great message against cyber bullying; it’s something that doesn’t get addressed enough, and it was nice to see the matter handled appropriately. The script is social media savvy, and for once, this actually feels like real high schoolers and not like adults writing high school characters. Even though this is your introduction, you already know this girl that Whitman is playing, and I really want to see where she takes her comedy career next. The DUFF never drags, has a sweet core, and I give it an enthusiastic recommendation.
The DUFF (2015) ****
– Critic for Hire
Want to see where this fell in my list of best films of the 2015? See for yourself here.