Blu-ray Review: The DUFF

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“Duff” is an acronym for “designated ugly fat friend.” In the new teen comedy The DUFF, Mae Whitman holds that dubious title as Bianca Piper, always flanked by her conventionally hotter friends, Jess (Skyler Samuels) and Casey (Bianca Santos). Never mind that Bianca is neither “ugly” nor “fat,” that’s not the point. As very frankly explained to her by her former childhood friend (and current high school hunk) Wes (Robbie Amell), a “duff” needn’t literally mean what it seems to mean. Bianca, like many “duffs,” is just a bit more… physically average and unassuming than then the more stylish, genetically-blessed friends who surround her. Wes points out to the previously unaware Bianca that Jess and Casey only hang around with her to make themselves look even better.

A shocked Bianca promptly enlists Wes as her makeover specialist, imploring him to help her develop a sense of style and confidence in order to confidently ask her crush out on a date. Director Ari Sandel and screenwriter Josh A. Cagen essential update past teen movie favorites, from Mean Girls to She’s All That, dipping back as far as John Hughes’ films like Pretty In Pink and Some Kind of Wonderful for inspiration. Bianca and Wes become close friends again quite quickly, despite Wes’ on-again, off-again relationship with the bitchy-but-popular homecoming queen Madison (Bella Thorne). Especially after Bianca’s singer-songwriter crush Toby (Nick Eversman) reveals himself to be a dweeb who was only interested in getting closer Jess and Casey, it’s pretty clear where The DUFF is heading.

Duff 2 (380x254).jpgBeyond predictability The DUFF at least offers an agreeable, fun-loving lead performance by the very talented Mae Whitman. She turns Bianca into what many guys would consider a true dream girl: sharp as a tack, funny as hell, and good-looking without being a knockout who will turn every other guy’s head. In fact, Whitman is almost a little too knowing in her portrayal of Bianca. It becomes increasingly hard to believe she could’ve possibly not seen she was being manipulated by her friends. She has more than enough on the ball to realize on her own that she doesn’t need to tailor herself to fit anyone’s expectations. Meanwhile, Robbie Amell’s Wes is similarly a little too perfect a specimen for his own good. He’s also smart, so it honestly beggar’s belief that he would be led around like a lapdog by queen bitch Madison.

The modestly-budgeted The DUFF looks and sounds perfectly fine on Lionsgate’s Blu-ray. David Hennings’ cinematography is nothing special to behold, but the 1080p presentation is crisp and clear. The audio is presented as a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround mix. There are a lot of pop songs peppering the film (by the likes of Nick Jonas, Jessie J, Fall Out Boy, to name a few) and they bounce along with real verve, with their rhythm sections keeping the LFE channel busy.

The Blu-ray Combo Pack includes a standard DVD and downloadable Digital HD copy. Special features are a bit light, with a gag reel and a series of four EPK-ish featurettes. The DUFF is certainly not difficult to watch and the fewer teen rom-coms you’ve seen, the more likely you are to enjoy it. Ken Jeong and Allison Janney turn up in minor roles (Bianca’s teacher and mom, respectively) that are fun but unchallenging.

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Chaz Lipp is a Seattle-based freelance writer whose focus is music and film. As “The Other Chad,” he has written for the online magazine Blogcritics since 2008. When he’s not writing, Chaz can be found trolling jazz clubs, attempting to find somewhere to play his sax (whether anyone wants to hear…

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