Shove off, John Hughes. The DUFF, a high school comedy by Ari Sandel, opens by declaring that The Breakfast Club's social categories are, like, way passé. Explains lead Bianca (Mae Whitman), "Jocks play video games, princesses are on antidepressants, and geeks rule the world." Today, be ye goth kid, science dweeb, or just plain ordinary, only one distinction counts: Are you hot or not?
Bianca is not. She's what her jerk neighbor Wes (Robbie Amell), the football captain, calls the DUFF, i.e., the "Designated Ugly Fat Friend." Being the DUFF is a noble sacrifice: By seeming approachable, Bianca serves as a bouncer granting select guys the OK to flirt with lovely Jess (Skyler Samuels) and Casey (Bianca A. Santos).
Josh A. Cagan's script aspires to be hyper-modern and clever. It's all hashtags and cyberbullying, as though it doesn't expect to have a shelf life longer than six years. (Stick around to the end credits for everyone's Twitter handle and Instagram.) But Whitman's a barreling Mae West in overalls, a classic screwball starlet who's all moxie and eye-rolls. To back her up, Sandel enlists grown-ups Ken Jeong, Romany Malco, and Allison Janney as comic support, yet he gets even better mileage out of young dramatic actor Amell, who takes a shallow role and turns it into a mini-meathead masterpiece.
But The DUFF doesn't seem to know what its point actually is. It's pro-self-acceptance and also pro-makeover -- the movie insists that if Bianca really wants people to pay attention to her battle against beauty standards, she should first get a better bra and show off her boobs.
Director: Ari Sandel
Writer: Kody Keplinger and Josh A. Cagan
Cast: Mae Whitman, Robbie Amell, Bella Thorne, Bianca Santos, Skyler Samuels, Romany Malco, Ken Jeong and Allison Janney