Directed by: Ari Sandel
Written by Josh A. Cagan, based on the book by Kody Keplinger
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for crude and sexual material throughout, some language and teen partying.
Cast: Mae Whitman, Robbie Amell, Skyler Samuels, Bianca Santos, Ken Jeong, Nick Eversman, Bella Thorne
Bianca is a content high school senior whose world is shattered when she learns the student body knows her as The DUFF (Designated Ugly Fat Friend) to her prettier, more popular friends. Now despite the words of caution from her favorite teacher, she puts aside the potential distraction of her crush, Toby, and enlists Wesley, a slick but charming jock, to help reinvent herself. To save her senior year from turning into a total disaster, Bianca must find the confidence to overthrow the school's ruthless label maker Madison and remind everyone that no matter what people look or act like, we are all someone's DUFF.
Check out my review of the book this movie is based on HERE.
I think if I hadn’t read the book before I saw this movie, I would have liked it a lot more. It’s funny, it’s sweet, it’s cute….but compared to the book, it’s terribly shallow and hardly resembles the book at all.
So the premise of the movie is that hot guy Wesley Rush informs childhood friend Bianca Piper that she is the DUFF of her friend group (designated ugly fat friend). Of course, this upsets her, but then she realizes that she could change that. Bianca offers to help Wesley pass chemistry if he’ll help her not be a DUFF anymore. Romance blossoms, hijinks ensue, blah blah blah etc.
Like I said, if you haven’t read the book, you’ll probably be entertained by this movie. If you have read the book (and liked it), well, I don’t necessarily recommend watching the movie adaptation.
One of my biggest problems with this movie is that it makes everything so light. Not to mention that it completely does away with the three main conflicts in the book (Wesley and Bianca sleeping together, Bianca’s parents impending divorce, and Wesley’s tense relationship with his family). Instead what we get is an episode of Extreme Makeover, where we see Wesley giving Bianca dating tips, and some random made up character (who is reminiscent of Regina George from Mean Girls) who did not exist in the book, bullying Bianca because she’s the DUFF. We trade secret, soul baring rendezvous between Bianca and Wesley for ridiculous trips to the mall where Wesley tells Bianca what kind of bra to buy (which is ridiculous. what straight jock knows bras better than a girl?). Instead of Bianca’s dad falling off the wagon and having a serious drinking problem caused by his impending divorce, which turns into him taking a swing at his own daughter, we get Bianca helping her mom pick a profile photo for her dating profile. In the book, Bianca’s friends stand by her through it all, but in the movie, they have a big fight in the school office where they *GASP* “unfriend each other on social media” and it’s OH SO HORRIFYING.
The more I write this review, the less I like the movie.
The book felt like real people dealing with real issues. The movie felt like someone said, this book is too depressing (which it definitely is NOT), lets make all the adults completely ridiculous and unrealistic, and all the teenagers soulless drones (Bianca and Wesley not included thankfully).
One of the main points of the book was that Bianca wasn’t going to change. She makes this big speech (adorably cut off by Wesley kissing her) at the end of the book where she goes on and on about how she’s not going to change and if Wesley doesn’t like it he can walk away.
But the message from the movie? Bianca changes drastically. She gets better clothes. She does her hair. She wears lots of makeup. Sure she got the guy, and yes, they were very cute together, but that doesn’t change the fact that I feel like the screenwriters have never read the book.
One of my biggest issues though (you’re probably wondering how it could get worse) was how quickly the script brushed past the whole “Wesley calls Bianca Duffy and she hates it” conversation. This was a HUGE. MAJOR. GIGANTIC. plot point in the book. It was part of why Bianca thinks Wesley couldn’t possibly actually like her. It affects her for most of the book. But in the movie, there’s a scene pretty early on where Bianca says that it bothers her, Wesley laughs through an apology and we go on our merry way.
DID THE SCREENWRITERS UNDERSTAND THIS BOOK AT ALL??
I thought, whatever the issues with the screenplay were, that it was cast well. Mae Whitman is always great in whatever role she plays, and she was funny and charming as Bianca. Robbie Amell is appropriately hot and adorable and charming as Wesley. Everyone else was fine I suppose, though their characters were far less important to me as I watched. I guess random devil chick Madison was good (she was certainly evil and annoying) though her character was 100% superfluous.
This makes me sad because this movie could have been really good. The book was great, and dealt with real issues. The movie turned it into every other teen movie. Oh look there’s the gorgeous mean girl, beating up sad main character. The book had a fairly unique and interesting premise. But the movie just dumbed everything down and made everything a joke. I can’t even begin to describe how disappointed I am, because I wanted to love the movie. I went into it expecting to love it.