Throughout the 80s and 90s the teen comedy was the big thing, but as their quality dwindled so did the popularity and amount being produced. Every so often there is another one that pops up and while most are still bad there is that hidden gym from time to time. The latest, The Duff looks to put its mark on this iconic genre, but does it bring anything new to the class or is it not even worth a detention?
The Duff follows a content high school senior whose world is shattered when she learns the student body knows her as ‘The DUFF’ (Designated Ugly Fat Friend) to her prettier, more popular friends. Now, despite the words of caution from her favorite teacher, she puts aside the potential distraction of her crush, Toby, and enlists Wesley, a slick but charming jock, to help reinvent herself. To save her senior year from turning into a total disaster, she must find the confidence to overthrow the school’s ruthless label maker Madison and remind everyone that no matter what people look or act like, we are all someone’s DUFF. For the most part this film is a pretty by the numbers teen comedy hitting most of the needed marks to be entertaining, but there are times where it falls a bit flat. Lead Mae Whitman who just finished off a great run on Parenthood is mean to be the DUFF to her hot friends and while she may not be the superhot chick, she is far from the description that her nick name gives her. This is the first part that makes some of this film hard to buy into, but thanks to her charm you are willing to stick it out with her. The premise is a bit dumb, which isn’t all that unusual for this genre, but they played it so safe and by the numbers it never really sells anything it appears they are trying to sell. There is an empowering and anti-bully message here that comes across loud and clear, but despite her issues, she still has plenty of friends and never really struggles with anything other than herself as opposed to those around her that they are wanting for you to believe. When the film does step out of its own shell it is pretty entertaining, but never has enough bravery to just cut lose and do its own thing.
There is a fun supporting cast here including Robbie Amell, Bella Thorne, Ken Jeong, and Allison Janney that helps it limp along and be a decent film, but with this line up they should have knocked it out of the park. This is far from a perfect film, but instead a by the numbers teen genre comedy that you will likely enjoy and then forget all about it. In addition to the film this release also features numerous special features including an extended gag reel, red carpet and featurettes that take you further into the film.
Find out if you are The Duff when it hits Blu-ray and DVD on June 9th and Digital HD available now.