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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: The Duff

June 14th, 2015

The Duff - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray Combo Pack

The Duff

The Duff opened in February, which isn't a good time of the year to release a film. It earned good reviews and topped its meager expectations. Now that it is out on the home market, is it worth picking up? Was it unfairly overlooked by moviegoers the first time around?

The Movie

We begin with Bianca describing the old high school stereotypes and how in today's world, they no longer fit. She thinks this means they live in a world without labels. However, instead there are new labels. We are then introduced to Bianca's two best friends: Jess, the Kind One, and Casey, the Tough One. Compared to her two friends, Bianca is just the Other One. The other person we meet right away is Madison, or the Future Reality Star, as she's labeled. She's the Queen Bee of the school. She invites Jess and Casey to her party that night, but she doesn't invite Bianca; however, Casey tears her invite in two, giving Bianca half.

The trio's first class is the school newspaper, where the teacher, Mr. Arthur, gives Bianca an assignment to write about the social life in the school, specifically homecoming. This means she will have to go to the homecoming dance, which is something she really didn't want to do. It also means she will need a date. Jess offers to get her a date, but there's only one person she wants to go out with, Toby. She's so nervous around him that she can't even say three words. The only boy she does talk to on a regular basis is Wesley, her next door neighbor and primary source of annoyance. He is also Madison's sometimes boyfriend and the fact that he will talk to Bianca irritates here to no end.

While at the party, Bianca again runs into Wesley, who asks Bianca about Jess and Casey. When Bianca points out it is not her job to answer his questions, he explains that it is, because she's their DUFF, Designated Ugly Fat Friend. He tries to explain it's not as bad as the name would suggest, but Bianca throws her drink in he face and leaves. At first, Bianca refuses to believe she's the DUFF. Then when she admits it is the truth, she gets angry and confronts Jess and Casey, which results in them ending their friendships.

Bianca still needs help talking to Toby. When she overhears her Science teacher tell Wesley that has to pass his chemistry midterm or he will be kicked off the football team (and lose his scholarship as a result) she comes up with a plan. She will help him pass that test if he will help un-DUFF her.

The details of his plan run deep into spoiler territory, so we will end the plot summary there.

There have been many movies made about high school that have a similar feel as The Duff, most notably Mean Girls. Is The Duff as good as Mean Girls was? No. The writing isn't as sharp and the message isn't delivered in quite as potent fashion. Additionally, it does suffer from a lot of the clich├ęs you normally see in the genre. However, that's a really high bar to set and The Duff is still a great movie on its own right. One of the highlights of the movie is Mae Whitman, who has been acting for more than 20 years, so it should come as no surprise that she nailed this role. Additionally, she and Robbie Amell have great chemistry together. The supporting cast is also fantastic, including Allison Janney, who plays Bianca's mom. The film is also very funny, in part thanks to the writing and the cast, but also Ken Jeong, who did a lot of improv.

The Extras

Extras begin with a three-minute featurette featuring the cast on the red carpet. There are also extended outtakes (there are also outtakes in the end credits). Some of these outtakes are from interviews with the cast and not just from the filming of the movie itself. Up next is a two-minute look at adapting the original novel into the film and includes the original author, Kody Keplinger. Teen Comedies and the DUFF is a two-minute featurette that compares this film to other similar films, including Mean Girls. I am the Duff is another 2-minute featurette, this time with the cast and crew talking about how they were the Duff. The Duff Files is a five-part, seven-minute featurette on the characters. There are a lot of extras, but none of them are very substantial. I would have rather had an audio commentary track and cut some of the shorter featurettes.

The technical presentation is exactly what you would expect for a low-budget studio film. It only cost $8 million to make, so it isn't the most visually impressive movie I've seen, but there are also no real faults either. The level of details is high, the colors are vivid, the blacks are deep without swallowing details. It's fantastic for a dialogue-driven comedy. The audio is presented in a 5.1 surround sound track. The dialogue is always clear, which is the most important part, while there are enough ambient sounds and music in the surround sound speakers to feel immersive.

The Blu-ray combo pack costs is $19, which is $5 or 33% more than the DVD. This is industry standard for this type of release.

The Verdict

The Duff is a very good movie, but it isn't a classic in the genre. I don't think it will have the staying power that the best of these films have, but it is still worth checking out. There are a lot of extras on the DVD and Blu-ray Combo Pack, but none of them are really substantial. It is still worth picking up over just renting, on the other hand.

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Filed under: Video Review, The DUFF, Allison Janney, Ken Jeong, Mae Whitman, Chris Wylde, Skyler Samuels, Bella Thorne, Nick Eversman, Robbie Amell, Bianca Santos, Kody Keplinger