The New Guy

on May 10, 2002 by Paul Clinton
   For a jaunt into teen exploitation, “The New Guy” is as aggressively unfunny as they come.

   A teenage outcast named Dizzy (DJ Qualls) leaves his school so he can escape the bullies who pounce on him daily. He transforms himself into a hipster named Gil and enrolls in a new school, where girls fawn over him.

   Screenwriter David Kendall supplies--or, more accurately, patches in--this ready-made zero-to-hero theme. The movie leans heavily on slapstick and few of Kendall's jokes rise above crude, insult humor. First-time director Ed Decter (one of four writers on “There's Something About Mary”) fumbles around with his camera like a blindfolded man in the dark.

   As for Qualls, who played the misfit college kid in “Road Trip,” the actor thrashes around in the role, never settling into a rhythm. A genuine oddball, Qualls strains credibility as the cooler version of himself. You never buy the scenes of sexy Danielle (Eliza Dushku) cooing over him in the schoolyard.

   Qualls is more suited for supporting roles because his go-for-broke acting style needs limits. Taken in too heavy a dose, Qualls can be hazardous to any movie's health.

   Eddie Griffin shows up as a convict who teaches Qualls' Dizzy how to act prison tough, and his creative comedy brings some sparkle to his scenes. Lyle Lovett as Dizzy's dad and Illeana Douglas as a misguided school counselor show up in small roles. A parade of outré celebrities, including Vanilla Ice, Tommy Lee, Henry Rollins and Gene Simmons, pop in and out of scenes. Starring DJ Qualls, Lyle Lovett, Eddie Griffin and Eliza Dushku. Directed by Ed Decter. Written by David Kendall. Produced by Mark Ciardi, Todd Garner and Gordon Gray. A Columbia release. Comedy. Rated PG-13 for sexual content, language, crude humor and mild drug references. Running time: 87 min

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