Hollywood doesn’t make enough teen comedies. It’s a beloved genre that is relatively cheap to produce (these movies usually cost somewhere between 10 and 20 million) and tend to earn back several times their gross, and if the teen comedy in question is even halfway decent, it earns its forever spot on the slumber-party circuit alongside greats like Clueless, Mean Girls, 10 Things I Hate About You, and, well, basically every movie John Hughes ever made.
Mean Girls turned 10 this year, and the last well-received teen comedy, Easy A, came out in 2010. We were long overdue for a worthy contribution to this genre, and that’s exactly what we get with The DUFF.
Based on the YA novel of the same name by Kody Keplinger (who wrote the novel at 17, giving the story serious teen street cred), The DUFF tells the tale of Bianca Piper (Mae Whitman), editor of her high school newspaper and lover of schlocky B-movies, whose world is turned upside down when her childhood friend-turned-hot-jock Wesley Rush (Robbie Amell) informs her that she is the DUFF (designated ugly fat friend) of her friend group. Bianca refuses to live out the rest of her days as a DUFF, so she proposes a trade with Wesley: If he helps her shed her DUFF-dom, she’ll help him pass science. As Wesley My-Fair-Ladys Bianca, the chemistry between the two snaps and crackles. Meanwhile, Bianca has attracted the ire of Madison (Bella Thorne), a mean girl with reality television aspirations. Madison, Wesley’s ex, is intent on getting back together with her old beau and, seeing Bianca as a direct obstacle, is determined to destroy Bianca by cyberbullying our heroine into oblivion. As Bianca’s social life falls apart, she starts to see how little labels matter and realizes that the only labels worth anything are the ones you give yourself.
What elevates this movie from entertaining to straight-up enchanting is the impossibly winning Mae Whitman and her off-the-charts chemistry with Amell. This movie transcends the sleepover genre: If you like your movies smart, charming, and big-hearted, with a finger directly on the pulse of the current zeitgeist, The DUFF is your best current release bet.