I subscribe to the theory that much of a romantic comedy’s ultimate success or failure comes down to the cast even more than the script. Charming leads will carry most wonky screenplays. On that note, The DUFF is at its best when it lets its cast bounce off of each other without much machination.
Mae Whitman is really excellent as the star: Funny and engaging and believably human for the dramatic bits to hit. She also carries herself not like a movie star, but like someone who might actually be called a “designated ugly fat friend” (though anyone calling Whitman “ugly” or “fat” needs to check yourself).
Robbie Amell, meanwhile, is charming but forgettable. But this isn’t really his story, so that fits the bill.
Whenever the movie tries to be hip or timely — some particularly cringey bits involve characters listing and describing popular social media networks — you’ll feel like you got transported to something much dumber. But otherwise it’s pretty competent in its objective of convincing you of Bianca’s arc of self-empowerment, as well as her gradual romance with the hunky Wesley.
Plenty of the supporting cast are excellent. Bella Thorne relishes being a mean girl, Romany Malco (aka the black guy in 40 Year Old Virgin) is a scene-stealer as a befuddled principal, and even Ken Jeong is tolerable.
And Allison Janney gets her own paragraph, because she deservers it. Janney is great here, and I want her in every movie.
Nobody will mistake The DUFF for great cinema, but it’s a pretty solid and above average teen romcom.
Note: This review was originally published elsewhere. Please excuse brevity or inconsistencies in style. If you have questions or feedback, please leave a comment or contact me.