The 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 rock.
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 film’s detriment.
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.
Ed Decter (director) / David Kendall (screenplay)
CAST: DJ Qualls …. Dizzy Harrison/Gil Harris
Eliza Dushku …. Danielle
Zooey Deschanel …. Nora
Jerod Mixon …. Kirk
Parry Shen …. Glen
Eddie Griffin …. Luther