"The DUFF" (Designated Ugly Fat Friend, that is) is more or less a typical high school comedy. However, protagonist Mae Whitman breaks the mold by looking like someone you actually could have seen in homeroom every day. Whitman, who plays title character Bianca Piper, is short, (very slightly) chubby and kind of plain looking.
Because of her average appearance, Bianca is considered the DUFF of her friend group. The movie is quick to reconcile that DUFF isn't a literal term as much as a figurative term. This idea is a smart commentary on the way adolescents relate. If you like someone, you don't just tell them, you ask their friend that you don't have a crush about their feelings. That friend's the DUFF, and Bianca isn't happy to learn that's she's this go–to.
Cue Bianca’s journey of finding herself, which involves “unfriending” her hotter BFFs and trading chemistry tutoring for “reverse DUFF” advice from her football hunk neighbor, Wesley Rush. Cue comic attempts to woo her guitar–strumming crush, Toby Tucker.
The narrative involves a predictable romance and truly charming turns from Whitman and her counterpart Robbie Amell, who plays Wesley. Whitman proves her talent for physical comedy in a number of laugh–inducing fantasy scenes.
Supporting roles from the infallible Allison Janney, Ken Jeong and Romany Malco provide extra laughs in the already funny film.
The movie is equally poignant as an Easy A or Mean Girls-type. The film teaches its (presumably youthful) audience that high school is only temporary, but being comfortable with who you are lasts forever. (Ed. Note: Barf.)
It is, however, more technologically up–to–date. Texts flash across the screen, students watch an embarrassing viral video of Bianca on their phones, and the words “Tumblr,” “Pinterest” and “Vine” make it into the script. There’s a clear pandering to a younger demographic. And that works. It’s not a perfect movie, but neither is the heroine. Nonetheless, Whitman will win your heart. And Amell’s impressive pecs will win over another part of you.
DUFFs on Campus
Van Pelt: The Biddle Law Library and Fisher Fine Arts are hotter, and boy, do they know it. Yet Van Pelt, as the approachable one, still fills up every finals season.
Qdoba: Making Honest Tom's and Chipotle look gourmet.
Dean DeTurck: We're wondering how many times a day he gets asked about how Amy G is doing.