he biggest problem the new Teen Comedy "The New
Guy" faces is that it sells itself as a one trick pony -- in this case, an
abused geek transforms himself into a tough guy at a new school in order to
"fit in." One trick ponies, as we all know, are in danger of not
having much to fall back on once its one trick gets used up. "The New
Guy" has a likeable lead in lanky DJ Qualls, who plays Dizzy Harrison, the
geek in question, but even that isn't enough to save this flop.
Don't be confuse and think "The New Guy" is
anything special. It's not. It's funny in spots, awkward in others, and is
highly predictable from beginning to end. Its situations are ludicrous, but
that's to be expected. For example, you know geek Diz (who changes himself and
his name to Gil Harris) will eventually come around and stand up for all his
fellow geeks, and will himself return to his geek status because, as movies like
to point out, it's "being yourself" that matters. If you couldn't
predict that Diz/Gil's tough guy routine at his new school will win over the
affections of the school slut, who he thinks he wants, but really wants the
school hottie/nice girl played by Eliza Dushku, then you've been living under a
All that being said, "The New Guy" has a good
supporting cast in Eddie Griffin (TV's "Malcolm and Eddie") as Luther,
the convict who teaches Diz the tricks of being a tough guy. (After being
wrongly diagnosed for mental problems by a ditzy psychiatrist, Diz is prescribed
pills that somehow makes him do things that puts him in county jail. Don't ask,
the movie never elaborates.) Country singer Lyle Lovett shows up in a throwaway
(and slightly embarrassing) role as Diz's father, Bear. Since Diz is a geek, he
has his own group of outcast friends, including an overweight black kid, a nerdy
Asian kid, and a feminist female who refuses to shave her armpits. There's a
funny subplot about the Asian kid's obsession with all things gay, but it's
comedy goldmine like that the filmmakers fail to follow up on, much to the
Truth be told, "The New Guy" runs out of steam
faster than I had anticipated. For a 90-minute movie, the film's one trick
(Diz's transformation) is played out too quickly, and by the 35-minute mark all
the jokes writer David Kendall and director Ed Decter had planned for situations
revolving around Diz's conversion to Gil is already played out and become tired.
There is plenty of comedy to be harvested here, but instead the filmmakers
quickly shifted gears and went into an inane and rather boring plot about the
school football program and how the school has never won a game and…well, it's
not all that interesting or funny, so let's not bother with it.
"The New Guy"'s only real draw is DJ Qualls as
the lead and a very sexy Eliza Dushku ("True
Lies") as Danielle, the head cheerleader/nice girl/love interest.
Danielle, of course, is dating the big man on campus, who Gil must defeat in
order to become top dog. And get this; Gil defeats the guy right away.
Yet another bad move on the filmmaker's part. Where's the tension? The suspense?
This movie is full of unrealized comedic moments.
Besides likeable performances from the two leads, "The
New Guy" features a lot of celebrity cameos. In fact, spotting those cameos
is the only real reason to keep watching this film once all the jokes are used
up. Pro skater Tony Hawk shows up alongside brothers Jerry and Charlie O'Connell
as energetic (and slightly crazed) partygoers. Horatio Sanz of "Saturday
Night Live" appears as an inmate who teaches Gil how to dance (horribly, at
that), and Kiss lead singer Gene Simmons has a bit part as, of all things, a
reverend preaching in a mall.
"The New Guy" isn't even a mildly serious film
and says very little about real High School life. It's a goofy, lowbrow comedy
that uses up its one trick way too fast and has to rely on a boring plot about
football and school spirit the rest of the way. All of this adds up to the
realization that "The New Guy" fails badly to capitalize on its
high-concept plot, which is a shame, because a lot could have been done with it.