The Duff has an early 00s Disney Channel show appeal, but with less wholesomeness, more cursing, and the type of jokes Nickelodeon would try to get away with.
Review (with Spoilers) – Below
Characters & Story
For many years Bianca (Mae Whitman) has had no issues being Casey (Bianca A. Santos – The Fosters) and Jess’ (Skyler Samuels) best friend. That is, until her neighbor, and childhood friend, Wes (Robbie Amell) reveals she is a DUFF (Designated Ugly Fat Friend). Something which shakes Bianca to her core for as much as she seems to not care what others think, at the same time it is more so she doesn’t care what the majority of people think.
So in order to no longer be THE DUFF, Bianca exchanges favors with Wes. She will help him pass chemistry, thus allowing him to play football, and he will help her no longer be DUFF worthy. Something which worries Madison (Bella Thorne) since she doesn’t like the two hanging around each other as much as they end up doing.
I haven’t seen much of Mae Whitman before this film, but now I’m very curious as to where her career may go. For with The Duff really resting on her shoulders, and her presenting the type of film I wish would become a series, I honestly feel like while this movie may not become a huge hit, it will be the type of film which may get her career in motion. Which I say due to how she can present the character of Bianca as this odd mix of Jennifer Lawrence’s boyish side, Anna Kendrick’s girl next door vibe, and then this incomparable personality which she brings to Bianca which makes it so no matter how sarcastic she maybe, you can see just enough vulnerability to adore the character.
And she isn’t alone when it comes to deserving praise. Arguably Amell took Wes from the jock matched to the average girl who asks for a makeover and, between the writing and his performance, he made a slightly shallow character have some depth. For with us seeing Wes as always smiling and with crude jokes, he easily can come off as a stereotypical jock put in makeover films. However, with us learning about his family life, and that leading you to understand why he always tries to be so happy, keeps going back and forth with Madison, and why he desperately needs to get a scholarship, you begin to understand there is more than meets the eye. Something, I think, Amell tries to show you as a viewer.
As for the story as a whole, while there aren’t any twist or tricks to throw you off, I do feel like you will be surprised how much you laugh and will overall like what is presented to you.
The main issue of the film to me is that as good as Whitman and Amell are, no one else really tries to match them. This could be because, story-wise, both Bianca, and Wes are the only ones who seemingly were given specific thought to, or it could be because the other actors of the film just aren’t as talented. It is hard to say. However, I will note that Madison, and in extension Thorne, made this film seem like it should have been an MTV original movie. For something about the character just seems so cheaply performed or written that she isn’t even the type you love to hate. If only because, even as her character is broken down, to a certain degree, she just doesn’t illicit any sort of response. Then, when it comes to Casey and Jess, at the end of the day those two characters don’t do anything for the film besides establishing Bianca as a DUFF.
Leaving one last issue, while the film, just through what is seen, could easily represent some lesson about being comfortable with yourself, instead, they have Whitman outright narrate this and really drive the feeling home that this should have perhaps been a TV movie versus a theatrical one.
Overall: TV Viewing
While Whitman and Amell definitely help push this film from being mediocre, unfortunately, the supporting cast helps drag it down from being great. For with those two being the sole characters who seemingly were given any thought, and everyone else meeting the low expectations this film surely has, I’m led to label this as TV Viewing.