'The DUFF': What the Critics Are Saying

Ari Sandel's high school comedy based on the hit YA novel stars Mae Whitman, Bella Thorne, Ken Jeong, Allison Janney and Robbie Amell.

In The DUFFMae Whitman (Parenthood) plays an honor roll senior who undergoes a makeover with the help of her handsome football captain neighbor (Robbie Amell) after he informs her that she’s a DUFF, or "designated ugly fat friend," within her pal group.  

Directed by Ari Sandel and based on the young adult novel of the same name by Kody Keplinger, the film also features Bella Thorne, Ken Jeong, Allison Janney, Bianca Santos, Skyler Samuels and Nick Eversman.

The CBS Films' comedy is the first to be released by Lionsgate per their new partnership and is expected to gross between $7 to $9 million over the weekend.

See what the top critics are saying about The DUFF:

The Hollywood Reporter’s Sheri Linden writes, “screenwriter Josh A. Cagen finds a middle ground between YA sermonizing and mild cheekiness, and director Sandel inflects his narrative feature debut with the requisite speed-of-the-Internet social media component, energetic but hardly anarchic. He and his behind-the-camera collaborators give the production a generic sheen.”

Additionally, “more a middle-of-the-road rom-com than a teen-spirit sendup, the pic weaves its lighthearted mix of silly and serious with increasingly heavy-handed spiels on self-esteem,” but “the movie’s richest and most surprising twist is that the All-American jock turns out to be simpatico, and not the usual egotistical dunderhead. Amell finds unexpected nuance in his character. As Wes (Amell) and Bianca (Whitman) navigate the rules of the game, he and Whitman infuse formulaic teen snark with the depth of old souls...[their] warmth and comic chops keep the movie buoyant.”

The Guardian’s Jordan Hoffman writes, “While its opening is too reliant on a Clarissa Explains It All-like voiceover, and some heavy-handed anti-bullying messaging feels shoehorned, there are stretches in which The DUFF soars, nailing scene after funny scene with an honest spirit rarely seen in mainstream teen films. ... Whitman’s turn as [Bianca] Piper is a marathon of what they call in acting classes “good choices”. Pretty much everything she does is equal parts funny and endearing, and slightly unpredictable…the way Whitman dodges the typical teen-girl portrayal is practically an exploration in jazz.”

The Washington Post’s Ann Hornaday says, “this high school rom-com is tricked out in rhetoric of independence and self-discovery that give it a pseudo-feminist sheen. But, between its grating heroine, strident speechifying, derivative plot and draggy tone and tempo, it’s like the redheaded stepchild of Mean Girls and Freaky Friday. … Bianca isn’t fat or ugly, but she isn’t terribly kind or sympathetic, either. Played with less warmth than brisk efficiency by Whitman, she makes a dubious protagonist.”

Chicago Tribune’s Michael Phillips notes, “What happens in The DUFF could be treated as a tragedy (and has been, recently, in Men, Women and Children, among others). Here, it's handled as a comedy of humiliation, pockmarked with smiley-face emoticons where you wouldn't mind some real emotion. ... The DUFF will no doubt strike a chord with many, but you know what would be revolutionary? Making a really good movie about a three-dimensional teenage female character that doesn't start and finish with both eyes on the same old punishing character types.”

New York Daily NewsElizabeth Weitzman writes, “It’s a modern twist on a classic kind of tale — classic being the John Hughes-era ’80s. The DUFF references predecessors like The Breakfast Club and Can’t Hardly Wait with wit and humor. It’s easy to connect to Bianca’s misery and be inspired by her defiance." Plus, the cast "is savvy and silly. Really, though, most of the credit goes to Whitman, who stands in, and stands up, for the DUFF in all of us."

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