Bianca Piper (Mae Whitman) is a contented high school senior whose world is shattered when she learns the student body knows her as ‘The DUFF’ (Designated Ugly Fat Friend) to her prettier, more popular friends (Skyler Samuels & Bianca Santos). Now, despite the words of caution from her favorite teacher (Ken Jeong), she puts aside the potential distraction of her crush, Toby (Nick Eversman), and enlists Wesley (Robbie Amell), a slick but charming jock, to help reinvent herself. To save her senior year from turning into a total disaster, Bianca must find the confidence to overthrow the school’s ruthless label maker Madison (Bella Thorne) and remind everyone that no matter what people look or act like, we are all someone’s DUFF.
It’s a treat to see the always solid Whitman finally emerge as a lead in a film. Acting since childhood, you may remember her as George Clooney’s little girl in “One Fine Day”, Anne Veal in “Arrested Development”, Roxy Richter in “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World”, and April in “Parenthood”. Her smart and snarky performance as Bianca, should ensure a long and interesting career.
If you assume that The Duff is a standard variety teen movie, you’ll be delightfully surprised by this charming little film with a strong supporting cast that also includes the always wonderful Allison Janney as Bianca’s mom, a divorcée-turned-motivational- author/speaker.
The Bottom Line: “The Duff” is a delight for the whole family. It’s also a good opportunity to open a dialog about the pitfalls of popularity for teens.