While this comedy of embarrassment has some pointed things to say about growing up, and a refreshing refusal to push its central character into a box, it also continually resorts to the cheapest, most annoying gags. As a result, the intriguing premise is swamped in corny antics, forcing the actors to work overtime to keep their characters on the right side of believability. This leaves everyone on-screen feeling more than a little artificial, including the characters who manage to be engaging.
The central figure is Lloyd (Jason Dolley), a 17-year-old who hasn't yet discovered what his "thing" is. He's brainy enough to get into any university he wants, but is unsure what he wants to do with his life. And he has been so busy getting good grades that he has never explored his own sexuality. Not helping this is his over-involved mother Maggie (Nia Vardalos), who hovers around him like a police helicopter with a floodlight, meddling in every aspect of his life. Mainly she's hoping he turns out to be gay, because that will entitle him to a scholarship to pay the expensive university tuition fees. So she tries to hook him up with random young men and asks his biker-dude dad Max (Mark Boone Junior) to encourage him in that direction. But Max actually engages Lloyd in a conversation, something his mother never does.
The problem is that for all of Maggie's protestations that she loves her son, she clearly only cares about herself. And this intense selfishness makes her so loathsome that we flinch every time she appears on screen, just as Lloyd does when he notices her nearby. Vardalos underplays the role nicely, but it's not enough to make her remotely sympathetic as everything she does leaves a wake of destruction. In other words, she's more like a shallow sitcom character than a real person. By contrast, Dolley is remarkably likeable, and the film's best scenes are between him and the relaxed, open-handed Boone. And Dolley also generates a nice sense of chemistry with Skyler Samuels, as the school hottie who's tired of hanging out with bigoted jocks.
Continue reading: Helicopter Mom Review
Astute and genuinely funny teen comedies don't come along very often; this one starts with a smart script and lets the spirited cast run with it. Director Ari Sandel and writer Josh A. Cagan also acknowledge their debt to high school classics like The Breakfast Club (30 years ago) and Mean Girls (10 years ago) as they poke fun at the various types of teenagers within the school hierarchy. Of course, the focus here is a postmodern type, the "designated ugly fat friend", also known as the duff.
It's 17-year-old Bianca (Mae Whitman) who is horrified to learn that she's a duff. She's neither fat nor ugly, but her casual appearance makes her the most accessible one alongside her hot friends Casey and Jess (Bianca A. Santos and Skyler Samuels). Yes, she's the third Charlie's Angel. So Bianca sets out to change her status, enlisting the advice of sexy jock-next-door Wesley (Robbie Amell) in exchange for helping him with his chemistry homework. Her real goal is to build up some confidence so she can pursue the sweetly sensitive musician Toby (Nick Eversman). But Wesley's on-off girlfriend Madison (Bella Thorne) is the campus queen bee, and doesn't like him hanging out with a duff.
The cast and filmmakers have a great time playing with adolescent stereotypes, constantly undermining expectations while pointing out that of course everyone is actually a duff in one way or another. This sharply observant approach gives every hilarious exchange of dialogue a pointed kick. We can't help but laugh simply because we see ourselves in the characters, remembering that when you're a teen everything seems overpoweringly important. Whitman is superb as the brainy, cute girl who has refused to unleash the hottie within, and her spiky chemistry with the energetic Amell is great fun to watch. Although it's the adults who shamelessly steal their scenes, including Allison Janney in a layered role as Bianca's too-helpful self-help guru mother and an unusually restrained Ken Jeong as her journalism teacher.
Continue reading: The Duff Review
The social pecking order of high schools has to be hard enough without discovering that, without your knowledge or consent, you have received a less than flattering label. When high school senior Bianca (Mae Whitman) is at a party, she discovers that she is supposedly a DUFF, or Designated Ugly Fat Friend. The revelation comes as a shock as she is neither ugly nor fat, and soon she discovers that she is in fact simply being labelled as such because she isn't as popular as some of the other members of her high school. Thus begins Bianca's popularity revolution, in which she fights to clear the name of anyone previously landed with the title of DUFF.
Continue: The Duff Trailer
Real estate developers aren't really known for their care when it comes to preserving the countryside, let alone the animals that live in them. Dan Sanders is a developer who's about to learn just how intelligent those furry little wild critters can be when their homes are in danger. They will do anything to stop his new housing complex from invading their precious territory.
Continue: Furry Vengeance Trailer
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