Movie Review: ‘THE DUFF’ – A Fairly Funny Teen Comedy

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Cole Clay // Film Critic


THE DUFF | 101 min | Rated PG-13
Director: Ari Sandel
Cast: Mae Whitman, Bella Thorne, Robbie Amell, Ken Jeong and Allison Janney

In THE DUFF, “designated ugly fat friend” ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT star Mae Whitman plays the gatekeeper to her more popular and subjectively more attractive friends. This a horribly vapid notion to live by, but in a high school this type of cruelty probably isn’t that difficult to find. Luckily, the film articulates that this shallow and offensive concept is inherently wrong.

The film basically acts as a vehicle for Whitman to showcase her weird, cult-film loving “DUFF-ness,” and while she’s an unconventionally talented actress who tries to sell the hell out of this character, we settled into a slightly above average teen comedy.

With a likable cast of supporting characters, including the animated candor of Allison Janney (JUNO) and absurd wit of Ken Jeong (THE HANGOVER). Although this film has a message it’s trying to communicate to it’s audience, the film doesn’t quite transcend the genre like EASY A or MEAN GIRLS did a few years back.

THE DUFF has a visual style that places you in the lexicon of the teen psyche, with self-referential hashtags and slang. This isn’t the best teen comedy out there but it’s definitely not the genre’s worst.

THE DUFF opens tonight.

About author

Preston Barta

Hello, there! My name is Preston Barta, and I am the features editor of Fresh Fiction and senior film critic at the Denton Record-Chronicle. My cinematic love story began where I was born: off planet on the isolated desert world of the Jakku system. It's there I passed the time scavenging for loose parts with my good friend Rey. One day I found an old film projector and a dusty reel of the 1975 film JAWS. It rocked my world so much that I left my kinfolk in the rearview (I so miss their morning cups of green milk) to pursue my dreams of writing about film. It wasn't long until I met two gents who said they would give me a lift. I can't recall their names, but one was an older man who liked to point a lot and the other was a tall, hairy fella. They got me as far as one of Jupiter's moons where we crossed paths with the U.S.S. Enterprise. Some pointy-eared bastard said I was clear to come aboard. He saw that I was clutching my beloved shark movie and invited me to the "moving pictures room" where he was screening the 1993 film JURASSIC PARK to his crew. He said my life would be much more prosperous if I were familiar with more work by the god named Steven Spielberg. From there, my love for cinema blossomed. Once we reached planet Earth, everything changed. I found the small town of Denton, TX, and was welcomed into the Barta family. They showed me the writings of local film critic Boo Allen. He became my hero and caused me to chase a degree in film and journalism. After my studies at graduate of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I met some film critics who showed me the ropes and got me into my first press screening: 2011's THE GREEN LANTERN. Don't worry; I recovered just fine. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD was only four years away.