Prior to its release, “The Duff” was described as this decade’s “Mean Girls”, but can the teen rom-com live up to its expectations?
Having been labelled the “DUFF” (Designed Ugly Fat Friend) among her group of friends, Bianca (Mae Whitman) enlists the help of her long term friend and neighbour Wesley (Robbie Arnell) to reinvent her image so that she can impress her crush Toby (Nick Eversman) and to keep “pre-celebrity” and bully Madison Carter (Bella Thorne) off her back.
Although the plot is highly predictable, the screenplay (which is adapted from the Kody Keplinger novel of the same name) is full of salty language and witty references to pop culture, placing a particularly strong focus on the teens’ addiction to mobile phones and social media. The latter is especially relevant in a culture that has become increasingly obsessed with social perception.
Despite the acronym suggesting otherwise, the film is quick to point out that the DUFF doesn’t necessarily have to be ugly or fat, just approachable and “less attractive” than her friends. With this in mind, Mae Whitman is the perfect casting choice. She has excellent comic timing and charm, and she looks comfortable in her range of outfits, from her elegant dresses to her “Wreck-It Ralph” casual wear.
Whitman’s chemistry with her co-stars is a pleasure to watch, especially her bond with Arnell. The supporting cast is also incredibly strong, featuring Allison Janney (best known for her role in “Juno”), Ken Jeong (“The Hangover”) and the largely under-used Romany Malco (“The 40-Year-Old Virgin”).
In a similar fashion to a teen’s iPod, The Duff’s soundtrack seamlessly shuffles between the likes of Icona Pop, Nick Jonas, Charli XCX and The Vamps. For the duration of its 101 minute running time, this is a film that is fully aware of its target market.