Monday, March 9, 2015

The DUFF Review

The DUFF has been in release for three weeks now and if I'm being honest, it was a movie that I wasn't that interested in. It just seemed like a cheesy comedy directed at teenage girls that only teenage girls would like. I thought it would get panned by critics and earn next to nothing in the box office. I was going to allow teenage girls to have their fun with it, but I had a lot more movies on my list to see before this one, so I wasn't going to bother with it. Then a man by the name of Robbie Amell posted on facebook about how proud he was of this movie and how excited he was for the world to see. Ok, that caught my attention. Robbie currently stars as Firestorm in The CW's new hit series The Flash and of course is the stars in The DUFF. I really like both him and his cousin Stephen Amell (Oliver Queen in Arrow), so I took his recommendation seriously. Then the movie actually got good reviews from critics and did well in the box office, so I was officially in. It took me a few weeks to finally see it, but as it turned out, I'm glad I did. Yes, I was in a theater of mainly teenage girls, but in an odd turn events, I was loving the movie right along with them. Surprise of the year? I'd say so!

Before this movie was advertised, I had never ever heard of a DUFF before. When I first saw the title of the movie, I actually wondered if it was a movie about Hilary Duff. Nope. Apparently DUFF is an acronym that stands for "Designated Ugly Fat Friend." I'm assuming the movie made up the term, but I also haven't been in high school for a while, so I don't know if this is a term that high school students are actually familiar with. But anywho, the movie started off as pretty cliche. You have the hot girl who is the most popular in the school. You have the hot guy who is dating the hot girl on and off. You have the neighbor of the hot boy, our lead girl, who is less attractive and less popular. Then you have the main girl's two best friends, who are also hot girls. Being that hot boy is neighbors with main girl, they are pretty good friends, but he's kinda embarrassed to be around her in public, but they talk a lot when it's just them and he's the type of guy who's pretty honest, almost to a fault. One day he calls her a DUFF, which essentially means the least attractive person in a group of friends who is the most approachable by the opposite sex mainly because of the desire to talk to the DUFF to get to the hot friends. Of course our main girl gets mad at being called a DUFF and well, there is where all the drama starts to happen.

 Based on all of that, you see where this is going? Yeah, so did I. Which is why I was slightly worried at first that it was going to be exactly what I initially thought it was. But that soon subsided and I found myself enjoying this movie. Sure, you can call it predictable, but sometimes a movie isn't going for original or innovative. As long as the execution of this is good, you can have a good, enjoyable film and that's exactly what happens here. Starting things off is a cast that does a great job at buying into their roles and excelling at them. Speaking of cast, though, I do have to point out real quick that very few people in this looked like they were actually high school age. I had no idea how old everyone actually was, but this was just a quick observation. After the movie, I went and looked up the ages of these kids and I was right. Most of the cast is indeed people in their mid- to late-20's playing teenagers in high school. I know this happens all the time, and there are reasons for it, but I still wonder why we can't get actual high school students to play high school students. It can't be too hard, right? Also, I did find it interesting that our lead girl, Mae Whitman, who plays the DUFF, is actually a fairly attractive girl. And I don't feel creepy saying that because no, she is not a teenager. In fact, she is a year older than myself.

That said, despite looking much older than their characters actually are, they do a fantastic job. Mae Whitman and Robbie Amell play our two leads and they have excellent chemistry together as well as perfect comedic timing. I was fully invested in both of their characters throughout the whole movie and I was also cheering for the fairy tale ending. When you can get me that invested in a romance movie, you've done something very right, because usually I just don't care. Also, this is a comedy. My most important rule with comedies is you have to make me laugh. Of course all the girls in the theater were cracking up the whole time, so even if I hadn't been laughing, I would've recognized that the movie succeeded by pleasing its target audience. But the great thing is that I was actually laughing right along with them.

Finally what makes this movie succeed is not just the good acting, the believable romance, or the successful comedy. That of course helps it a lot. But the best part of the movie is the message. This is all about accepting who you are as an individual and being happy with that. Everyone could be considered a DUFF to someone, but as I've always said, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I obviously didn't make that phrase up, but it's one I totally buy into. Everyone is beautiful to someone and not just on the inside, but on the outside. There's no need to try to change who you are or try to become the desirable shape and size. Just be you. But not just that, be happy about who you are. Sure, this message is one that has been told a hundred times and thus could be considered cliche. But it's a very important message that that still needs to be told because a lot of people, teenagers especially, have a hard time fully grasping this. How many people still suffer from eating disorders, depression, or other illnesses that ultimately are caused by people not being happy with the way they look? It's a sad thing. In my opinion, this movie does a pretty dang good job at getting the message across that everyone is different and that you should be happy with who you are and for that I give it a huge applause.

In terms of a comparison, I've heard a lot of people saying this is a lot like Mean Girls or Easy A. I'm not too familiar with Mean Girls, but I did see and enjoy Easy A and I do think that's an excellent comparison. Both are movies about high school that have excellent casts and a great, inspirational message to go along with it. So my recommendation is that if you like Easy A, you should definitely give this movie a chance. I know this is a movie that's directed towards teenage girls, but if a guy like me who's in his mid-20's can enjoy this, then I think a lot of people might actually enjoy it. So give it a shot, even if you aren't a teenage girl. Now if you are a teenage girl and have been excited about this movie and haven't seen it yet, definitely go see this. You'll love it. All the girls in my theater did. Yes, it's predictable and no, it's not exactly original, but the message in this is very positive and inspirational and the cast, led by Mae Whitman and Robbie Amell do an excellent job at making this movie work. My grade for The DUFF is an 8/10.

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