A lot has changed since I was in high school. Back in 2000, my “unique” ability to use editing software packed a real punch to my student campaign videos. With the help of a few spinning graphics – KAPOW! I was Batman. I even had a Robin: that slightly awkward friend recruited to make me seem cool.
You know, a DUFF.
The term isn’t mainstream and probably never will be. As an acronym (Designated Ugly Fat Friend), it’s far too front-and-center in all the film’s marketing to ever gain true cultural traction (or a pornographic sub-genre) the way MILF did after American Pie. But damn if you and the filmmakers don’t try. Through playful graphics, you literally spell out the word (and countless other things) for people throughout the film. Everything is given the early iMovie treatment, with tweets, texts, and imaginary fireworks splashed all over the screen.
No wonder I dug it.
Mae Whitman also helps, completely owning her starring role as the sub-sexy, totally approachable, literal girl-next-door. Her chiseled neighbour, played by Robbie Amell, is a jackass jock and childhood friend who gets recruited to give her the She’s All That hair-shake transformation. The story and stock characters continue to evoke every teen comedy ever made since the 80s, right up to the advertising that tells us The DUFF is this generation’s Mean Girls (as your graphics stress). And yeah, it might be. Not by redefining anything, but simply by being funny, confident, and accessible.
It’s the DUFF of teen movies.
But in a world where geeks and geek-culture reallydoes rule the world, that’s not an insult. The more Whitman’s character gets humiliated throughout the film, the more we love her. The “attack ad” videos created by the resident school hottie are complete with auto-tuning and slow-motion – the special sauce of many embarrassment-enhancing viral videos. But it’s the moments when the film doesn’t try to be era-specific that really work. We know exactly where everything is going (the prom), what’s going to happen (a big kiss), and who’s going to end up with who (duh), but be damned if I wasn’t rooting for it all to happen anyway.
The flare you added was nice, but it’s not what makes the film shine.
Star wiping myself out,