2015 / Director. Ari Sandel.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
DUFF is the horrible acronym for "Designated Ugly Fat Friend" and is the basis for this new teen comedy about a girl who discovers that she is, indeed, a DUFF. From the outset the film announces itself as a typical and generic teen comedy and the end-game is clear from the outset. Such predictability is actually quite comforting and THE DUFF exploits a tried and true formula. It's everything else that matters and the film sinks its teeth into some serious modern teen issues such as cyber bullying, depression and tech-dependancy and explores positive ways to deal with them in a way that is entertaining and very teeny. Mae Whitman is lovely in the lead and she owns every scene. Her entire persona is a throwback to the 90s and her interests include cult cinema and all things subversive. This gave me a tangible hook to grasp and references to past decades help the adult audiences relate to an entirely new generation of teens, the likes of which is totally foreign to most Gen-Xers. Emoticons, reality television obsessions and constant iPhone distractions are a running theme throughout the film and I really dug the way the film worked with it all. Of course I was sitting in a cinema full of dumb-ass teenage girls who couldn't comprehend most of the film's underlining themes and criticisms and their reactions to the most blatantly predictable set-ups was true shock and awe. Being amongst such an audience was a equally amusing as the film. The sound of "Awwwww" and "OMG" permeated the cinema... THE DUFF stands proudly alongside films like MEAN GIRLS and EASY A as one of the stand-out teen comedies amongst a seemingly infinite cache of mediocre and atrocious ones. It's got smarts and follows the formula in a satisfying and very entertaining fashion. Hopefully the intended themes and cautions are heeded by its target audience. I'm not sure it will resonate quite as deeply as the makers are intending it to be.