The DUFF (2015)

(On Cable TV, January 2016) Every generation gets the teen romantic comedy that it deserves, while older audiences look on with bemused horror. Still, there’s a place for competently executed formula, especially when the details are crafted with an almost-anthropological flair for conveying the flavour of the time. Here in The DUFF, a well-worn high-school romance plot is dusted off and given Social Media trappings, as a likable but (relatively) plainer-looking teenager discovers that she’s the “Designated Ugly Fat Friend” to her other friends. Throwing (relatively) here is crucial given that lead Mae Whitman is far from being ugly or fat, something that even the film acknowledges it in terms that go beyond Hollywood logic. In fact, The DUFF earns its place among second-rung High School comedies by showing a good self-awareness, a willingness to tackle old problems in new guises (i.e.; cyberbullying), Whitman’s very likable performance and a steady forward narrative rhythm that means few dull moments. The DUFF can’t completely escape the shackles of its chosen structure, and much of its final act is strictly routine. But for a while, it’s fun, funny, and maybe even revealing of the ways that teenagers are navigating the new social landscape with smartphones grafted to their sides.

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