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The DUFF

DIRECTOR: Ari Sandel

CAST: Mae Whitman, Robbie Amell, Bella Thorne, Bianca A Santos, Sklyer Samuels, Romany Malco, Chris Wylde, Alison Janney, Ken Jeong

CLASSIFICATION: 13L

RUNNING TIME: 110 minutes

RATING: ***

THE thought of watching a high-school teen comedy had me cringing. I dreaded the usual stereotypes – like the popular meanies vs the nerds in the cafeteria scene, the hot jock pranking the unpopular loner girl, or the indifferent punk/goth crew.

When I read the title, The DUFF (Designated Ugly Fat Friend), I was certain I was headed for almost two hours of cliché-filled pain and suffering… but I was wrong.

Yes, The DUFF does contain formulaic elements – you have your queen of mean, Madison (Thorne); the eye-candy jock, Wesley (Amell); the DUFF, Bianca (Whitman) and, of course, the ultimate element – the homecoming dance! But, then again, if it didn’t have these factors, it wouldn’t be a high school movie. That said, The DUFF brings something different to the genre.

Rather than dive into a done-to- death storyline of outcast gets a makeover and lives happily ever after (think She’s All That or Mean Girls), The DUFF takes a more realistic slant on teenage problems.

Bianca is a confident, comfortable high schooler. She’s a cult movie fan, has two besties and a perfect routine. Life could not be better. Until she discovers things aren’t as they seem.

An accidental invitation to the “it” girl’s house party leads to a rude awakening for Bianca when she discovers she’s actually a DUFF – a designated fat friend. This, according the wisdom of teenagers, doesn’t necessarily mean that you are fat or ugly, just that you are used by your friends to boost their image. So when compared to you, they would stand out as the more attractive or you are the person guys would go to, to approach your friends, so it goes – apparently.

Shocked by the revelation, and the fact that this kind of thing still happens in high schools, the usually level-headed Bianca starts to see her life differently.

Determined to change her DUFF status, she enlists the help of her neighbour and the high school hot jock, Wesley, to help get her into a more likeable girly space.

However, the road to a new, more desirable, self is littered with inner conflict, roller-coaster emotional experiences and cyber bullies.

Will she opt to change who she is, or love the skin she’s in?

Tackling social hierarchy, low self- esteem, loyalty and friendship, The DUFF looks into these issues in a more mature, yet still funny way.

Whitman was a wise choice for the lead role and proves her worth. Amell and Thorne also step up and get into the skin of their characters. Although, I think that they and few other members of the cast are too mature to pass for high school teenagers.

Ken Jeong brings the funny, but not his usual “crazy”, so don’t expect to see him in character form like his roles in The Hangover or Transformers: Dark of the Moon, but he will throw you a few lol moments.

A light, entertaining, watch with a strong social message.

If you liked First Time or Easy A, you’ll like this.