The DUFF follows the story of high-schooler, Bianca (Mae Whitman). At a party one night, Bianca is told by her long time neighbour and childhood friend, Wesley (Robbie Amell), that she is a duff. What's a duff? A duff is a designated ugly fat friend. It's more of a label, really, as you don't in fact have to be fat or ugly. Taken back by the news, Bianca asks Wesley to help her become the dateable one in her group of friends, offering to tutor him science if he does so. And so begins yet another film in which we watch a high school student change the way they look so that they can fit in. Great.
For the first 45 minutes of The DUFF, I was honestly regretting sitting down in the cinema. It was the most clichéd, unoriginal, poorly acted and painful cinema experience since Seventh Son. There were a couple of chuckles here and there, nearly entirely thanks to Ken Jeong, but nothing worthy of applause. Then the film's second half takes place and I'm honestly not sure what happened, but it improved. A lot. The film got funny, it hard some heart and I was entertained thoroughly. It's not perfect, but it was a shock. It's not enough to say I enjoyed this film, and it's certainly not enough for me to recommend you sit through 45 excruciating minutes to get to 45 decent minutes, but it's something.
I'll give this movie credit for at least trying to appear original. Don't get me wrong, once the film gets going, it's completely unoriginal and heads down in the exact path you knew it was going to go down just from watching the trailer, but it tries to hide its clichés by utilising the whole 'duff' angle. It's still a 'girl wants boy and must transform to get him' type of movie, but they give a new motive for why she needs to transform, adding at least one new thing to the high school comedy genre, even if it is only miniscule.
Once it does in fact get going, it's so full of clichés that you'll feel as if you've seen this movie before. There's the hot friends, the ugly friend, the jock and the bitch. They try to approach it in a self aware way, but it's still the same characters from every movie ever, self aware or not. But let's talk about this movie's bitch, played by Disney Channel star, Bella Thorne. Her intentions are left unmentioned, her arc is non-existent and her dialogue is hilariously bad. She's the least developed character in the entire movie.
To sum up, the first half of The DUFF is an excruciating, clichéd, poorly acted and conventional experience that makes Insurgent look like fun, but then the second half comes along and even though it's predictable, it's got a fair few laughs and a lot of heart.
2 1/2 Stars