The smartest, sweetest, wittiest high-school movie in years, The DUFF adds a new term to the lexicon of snares and pitfalls that typically lie in wait for the genre’s teenagers: its heroine is a ‘Duff’.
Mae Whitman’s self-assured geek Bianca has been happy with her lot in life until hunky jock Wes (Robbie Amell), her next-door neighbour, blithely informs her that in the company of her two dauntingly pretty BFFs, Casey (Bianca A Santos) and Jess (Skyler Samuels), she is the ‘Designated Ugly Fat Friend’.
Sent into a tailspin by the discovery, she accepts Wes’s offer to give her a makeover in return for coaching him to pass a chemistry exam, hoping that her prospective transformation will help her win over her floppy-haired, guitar-strumming crush, Toby (Nick Eversman). But with Wes’s bitchy ex (Bella Thorne) sniping from the sidelines, the project soon runs into peril.
Director Ari Sandel and screenwriter Josh A Cagan, adapting Kody Keplinger’s novel, have given The DUFF a distinctly up-to-the-minute feel. Texts and hashtags pop up all over the screen and bullying by social media becomes a major strand of the plot.
Yet beneath the modern manners is a timeless rites-of-passage tale about overcoming insecurity and finding yourself. Beneath the snark The DUFF is surprisingly sweet, and it is Whitman and Amell’s relaxed chemistry as much the witty script that makes it so appealing.
Certificate 12A. Runtime 101 mins. Director Ari Sandel.
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