Directed by: Ari Sandel
Starring: Mae Whitman, Robbie Amell, Bella Thorne, Skyler Samuels, Alison Janney, Ken Jeong
Did anyone really enjoy high school? As a dork since birth I can say that I sure didn’t, and with the plethora of high school movies featuring downtrodden nerds and popular bullies that have been made over the years, I think it’s safe to say I’m not the only one. The plot of this particular high school movie follows Bianca Piper; a smart but not exactly cool teenager who is pretty content with her life. She has two great best friends and a crush on a guitar playing, hair flipping guy so that’s all pretty standard; until popular jock and next door neighbour Wes drops a bombshell on her.
I started to roll my eyes a little at the point the whole ‘DUFF’ thing was introduced. Wes (Robbie Amell) basically tells Bianca (Mae Whitman) that she is Jess and Casey’s ‘DUFF’ (Designated Ugly Fat Friend) and that people generally talk to her as she is the approachable one, but they are really interested in her hot friends. Bianca is initially offended and douses Wes with her drink, and rightly so, but ends up teaming up with him to un-duff herself when she realises he may be right. It seemed as though this was going to head down the path of, hey well if you just change your appearance from boring dork to beautiful teen queen then people will notice you. Just change everything about yourself and then others will find you attractive and worth their time!
Mae Whitman definitely lifts this movie up from being just okay to being quite funny and cute. She has impeccable comic timing and really shines as the self deprecating Bianca. There was one really great scene where she finally gets the dream date with her crush and tries to apply all of the advice Wes had given her earlier. Unfortunately the setting was different to what she was prepped for, and she ends up tearing manically around the room trying to adjust the seating and the lighting to great comical effect. She pairs well with slightly cocky but still charming Robbie Amell. They riff off each other and have great chemistry.
Another stand out in the cast was the always funny Ken Jeong. He played the sassy but wise teacher Mr Arthur, who tried to encourage Bianca to step outside of her comfort zone by attending homecoming and writing an article about what it means to her. Alison Janney also steals the limelight as Bianca’s pant suit loving mother. She has recently become a self-styled guru on the subject of divorce, and is also trying to tackle the world of online dating. Bianca catching her taking selfies made me laugh; parents and technology are quite the humorous mix. Once my mum showed me her iPhone thinking it was broken because it was vibrating instead of making noise, and I gently pointed out the silent/loud switch on the side.
I sat down expecting a silly teen movie with a boppy soundtrack, and while it definitely did lean towards the fluffy side, it also had great heart and a really nice message – it’s okay to be yourself! That may seem quite obvious, but with all of the different social media around now and instant access to each others lives, teens today must deal with a lot of pressure to appear cool and popular; so I think it’s nice to reinforce that little piece of wisdom.