The Book Owl: The DUFF movie review (spoilers!) (3/5 stars)

Colleen Kelly

The DUFF is a teen romantic comedy based on a young adult  novel of the same name. The story focuses on Bianca Piper (Mae Whitman), a socially awkward tomboy and best friend to two very attractive and popular girls. When Wesley Rush (Robbie Amell), the captain of the football team whom she can’t stand, refers to Bianca as her friend group’s DUFF (Designated Ugly Fat Friend), she initially blows up at him for the slam, but then teams up with him, tutoring him in Chemistry if he agrees to make her over into someone “dateable.”

Unfortunately, The DUFF played it too safe and ended up being a very typical, predictable movie with obvious plot points that anyone who has seen the trailer (or any high school rom-com) can guess at. But does that make it a bad movie? Absolutely not. This movie was a lot of fun and I really enjoyed myself. The majority of the jokes hit the mark and had me cracking up with the rest of the theatre.

Whitman and Amell, our highly likeable romantic leads, had believable chemistry and made me actually care about what happened to their characters. Bianca was a laidback, relatable underdog  This movie did a good job handling issues like self-perception versus how others see you, unstable home lives, and cyberbullying, sneaking in some surprisingly thoughtful dating advice.

This did have a quite a few weaknesses, though, and it lies primarily among the over the top direction and cliched writing. A lot of comedic bits would go on far longer than necessary, other scenes meant to be more serious would come off as melodramatic and unintentionally goofy. The entire subplot with the movie’s stereotypical “mean girl” was entirely unnecessary and consistently the least entertaining (and at times embarrassingly unfunny) scenes. The movie as a whole needed to dial it back about five notches and come back down to earth to what high school is actually like.

If you’re a fan of the book, or see this movie and think you might want to read the book afterwards, you will be sorely disappointed if you’re expecting them to be similar. The only thing the book and movie have in common are their titles and the character names. In the book, Bianca does in fact get her unflattering revelation from Wesley, but instead of attempting to fight her label, she turns to him for an enemies-with-benefits arrangement in an attempt to distract herself from her social anxieties and unpleasant home life. The novel is 40% comedy, 60% drama, and explores Bianca and Wesley’s purely sexual relationship in their attempt to escape their worries without getting too attached to each other. Like the movie, the two do end up together, but the ride is entirely different and much more endearing. The movie, is 80% comedy, 20% drama, and took quite a few more liberties than I liked with the source material. In this case, Bianca and Wesley were portrayed as reluctant friends who don’t even acknowledge their feelings for each other until around the final twenty minutes. The movie doesn’t lack heart by any means, but it doesn’t quite have that same emotional impact either.

If you do decide to rent this one night with your girl friends and don’t want to take a movie too seriously, have at it with The DUFF. It’s a very enjoyable, lighthearted, if somewhat generic story that borrows numerous elements from teen classics like Mean Girls, She’s all That and Pretty in Pink that you’re sure to laugh at and quote all week.

Verdict: 3/5 stars