If I must admit, teen comedies have always been a guilty pleasure of mine. Everything from John Hughes' classics in the 80s, to Can't Hardly Wait in the 90s and as recently as a personal favorite of mine, with 2010's Easy A. Therefore, when I first caught a glimpse of Ari Sandel's The DUFF, I was immediately intrigued. Unfortunately, though, a hearty message isn't merely enough to sustain this vastly unoriginal teen flick.
The Perk of Being a Wallflower co-star, Mae Whitman, takes center stage as Bianca, an ordinary high school senior who's devastated to discovery that she's the DUFF ("designated ugly fat friend") to her popular circle of friends. This earth-shattering news sets her world off-track and forces her to ask a childhood friend and heartthrob, Wesley Rush (Robbie Amell), to help transform her into a date-able woman in order to win over her crush. It's impossible to deny The DUFF's firm and valuable moral to its story, which it constantly feels pressured to spell out to the audience again and again with voice-over, yet Ari Sandel's directorial debut offers nothing new to the genre.
While I'm not the first to point out The DUFF's unmistakable desire to mimic the teen comedy hit, Easy A, its impossible to overlook similarities like its leading lady's quick-witted and adult-like vocabulary, as well as the same school mascot (Blue Devils) and multiple overlapping songs to their soundtracks, The film has its moments of sincere laughs and well-acted dramatics, but unfortunately they become overshadowed by the "been there, done that" undertone that lurks throughout. Mae Whitman and the rest of the cast give their greatest efforts, but they just weren't great enough in this highly mediocre teen comedy.