The New Guy (2002)

"Terrible"

The New Guy (2002) Review


When the screenwriter responsible for one of the worst movies of one year directs an equally miserable film the following year, you'd have a hard time believing it was just coincidence. But Ed Decter, writer of the horribly unfunny Freddie Prinze Jr. clunker Head Over Heels, takes the directing reins for the first time with the remarkably lame teen comedy The New Guy.

The premise is simple: a high school ugly duckling named Dizzy (Road Trip's DJ Qualls) turns it around and starts fresh at a new school, strutting like a badass and making a new personality for himself as a guy named Gil. The supposedly funny twist is that he gets his education in cool while hanging at a prison, taking lessons in toughness from Eddie Griffin (wasted in his short appearance), learning how to dance like a hipster from Horatio Sanz (also wasted), and getting a makeover from the stereotypical cross-dressing cons in the pen. In each scene, Decter and screenwriter David Kendall (big blame goes to him too) want to get right to the funny immediately - the only problem is that each attempt results in a vacant black hole.

Sure, the younger kids at the screening giggled (I could tell from the higher pitched tittering). It's satisfying to know that someone is enjoying this drivel, but when a shockingly awkward opening sequence has an old, confused schoolteacher breaking Dizzy's penis (I'm not making this up), I'm not sure I want my 8-year-old nephew seeing it.

As illustrated by that opener, Decter and Kendall are just dying to make a Farrelly Brothers-style movie. We invoke their names every time some director attempts a gross-out scene, and so few - amazingly few - know how to do it. Not only is it done poorly here, but the filmmakers take an about-face in the second half of the film and change tones, trying to turn Me, Myself & Irene into Lucas. Hey fellas... you're playing to a young teen audience, so pick a genre and stick with it.

Getting from scene to scene appears to be an absolute chore for Decter, as many comic sequences drag on until the next hyper-contrived setup. Each scene's punch lines are remarkably empty. Witness this exchange between the school hotshot and his buddies: "Hey, she just dissed you." "Dude... shut up!" This is supposed to garner a giggle. And Decter and Kendall must like it because the conversation is repeated again later (when, you know, the tough guy gets dissed yet again. Imagine!)

DJ Qualls, the painfully gangly kid from Road Trip, is fairly appealing as Dizzy/Gil, but he plays both characters pretty much the same way. Any opportunity at twisting his persona to play his new personality is missed. He just doesn't do nearly enough with this role.

His female lead, Eliza Dushku, plays a high school cheerleader (again!? see Bring It On) and, in my mind, she is mildly exploited in this film. In a sequence that combines Pretty Woman with a wet dream, she models bikinis for Gil, suggestively bouncing around like a clothing catalog come to life as a lap dance. The scene is so uncomfortably out of place that it must exist only so 13-year-olds leave the theater convinced that they've had a great experience.

To add some variety, Decter and Kendall add some movie references, most notably, a scene from Braveheart. But once they hit you with the laugh, it lingers too long and is painfully predictable (I overheard teens at this movie coming up with better ideas than the ones on the screen). In fact, most of the movie is easy to peg. Would you believe that Gil turns things around for all the geeks at his new high school? Would you believe he helps the football team win? Would you believe that Gene Simmons, Tommy Lee, Henry Rollins, Illeana Douglas, and Lyle Lovett are all poorly utilized to a horrific degree? Do you even care?

Get a rope.



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