Film: The DUFF

The main reason to watch The DUFF (2015) is that Mae Whitman is adorable. Of course, in Hollywood this qualifies her to be the lead in an ugly duckling coming-of-age story. Bianca (Whitman) is your typical high school girl who has a crisis of confidence when the lovably dimwitted boy next door Wesley (Robbie Amell) tactlessly points out that she is the “Designated Ugly Fat Friend” for her two besties, Casey (Bianca A. Santos) and Jess (Skyler Samuels). This new perception rocks her self-awareness, blows up her friendships, and leads her to take a drastic step: enlisting Wesley to help her transform her image.

The DUFF is an over-familiar, cliché-ridden amalgam of teen-movie tropes that bludgeons its message home with a hammer that would put a scare into Mjolnir. And, I kinda liked it. It’s predictable as hell but it’s harmless, charming, and well meaning. It works because Whitman and Amell possess the needed chemistry, and there are enough genuinely funny bits in between the obvious plot turns to keep the story moving. Ken Jeong and Allison Janney provide some entertaining support as the requisite wisdom-imbuing adults. This is not high art by any means, and it won’t transform your understanding of the universe, but it’s a fun, well performed, low-stress diversion.

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