Tag Archives: D-

THE NEW GUY

And still they come, one after another–terrible, tedious student comedies, filled with the crummiest of gross-out gags and palpably phony messages about Being True to Yourself and Not Trying to be Someone You’re Not. This time around the picture centers on a hapless geek named Dizzy (DJ Qualls) who’s mercilessly tormented by the jocks and swells at his high school and, while briefly incarcerated, takes lessons about acting cool from Luther, a bad-ass hoodlum type (Eddie Griffin). Once released, he takes a new identity as a fellow named Gil and goes to a different campus, where he quickly becomes the local hero by besting the school bully (Ross Patterson), wooing his girlfriend (Eliza Dushku) and filling the other kids with such spirit that their downtrodden football team wins the state championship. In the process he temporarily ignores his old buddies (Zooey Deschanel, Jerod Mixon and Perry Shen), with whom he has a funk band, but ultimately he reverts to his sweet old self and finds that people admire him even more in that guise.

As is usually the case with these kinds of flicks, “The New Guy” is written like a series of skits with little connection to one another, and in this case they don’t even bother to maintain any inner consistency or logic. The character of Dizzy/Gil switches from cool to nerdy with bewildering frequency, and Luther pops up abruptly whenever needed (he also delivers the obvious narration); pointless cameos by the likes of Jerry O’Connell, Gene Simons, Tommy Lee, Vanilla Ice and Henry Rollins add to the feeling of randomness. The result is an incoherent jumble of tastelessness, stupidity, poor cinematic takeoffs and cloying sweetness, all delivered with numbing clumsiness. The best one can say of it is that it doesn’t get worse as it goes along; but that’s only because it starts out appallingly, with a boner joke that immediately sinks to the nadir, and it’s difficult to live down to that for a full ninety minutes.

Qualls, a gangly fellow who was one of the pals in “Road Trip,” has a certain charm as the transformed Dizzy, but the flick forces him into contortions, both physical and otherwise, that make it impossible for him to maintain his dignity for long. (His appearance, moreover–he looks rather like David Spade stretched out on a rack to greater height, but minus the contemptuous sneer–makes him frankly incredible as a stud. Until someone decides to make a faithful version of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” and needs a perfect Ichabod Crane, no role is ever likely completely to suit him.) Dushku looks fine in a cheerleading outfit, but her character–who’s supposed to be simultaneously sultry and sweet–is as conflicted as that of Dizzy/Gil. The other young performers acquaint themselves decently enough in stock roles, though Sher is sadly stuck with some junky gay humor. The real embarrassment, though, is among the grownups. Griffin mugs so badly as Dizzy’s jailhouse mentor that one fears for the scenery as well as his fellow actors. Lyle Lovett plays Dizzy’s dad as a redneck moron, and his line readings defy belief. Illeana Douglas, a talented actress, dumbs down to an appalling degree as a clueless guidance counselor. Kurt Fuller goes out of control as the principal of Dizzy’s new school. But certainly the worst moments belong to veteran Geoffrey Lewis, whose big scene involves his sitting on a toilet and struggling to manage a bowel movement. To think that a respectable career has sunk to this! Technically the flick is mediocre at best, and the direction by writer-turned-helmer Ed Dechter seems flat-footed and unsure.

“The New Guy” isn’t quite as awful as “Not Another Teen Movie” or “Slackers,” but that’s hardly a compliment. As far as the performers and filmmakers are concerned, they’d be well advised simply to point to scripter David Kendall as the main culprit, and embrace as their own one of the lines that he puts into the mouth of Luther near the beginning of the movie. “As you can see,” the con notes while we’re being introduced to Dizzy, “I didn’t have much to work with.”