As a Parody of Teen Films, 'New Guy' Is Old Hat

Hey, kids! We know it's close to finals and it's, like, the height of sadism to spring a pop quiz just before a May weekend. Bear with us. It's just one measly multiple-choice question.

"The New Guy" is:

(a) An argument for the abolition of high school.

(b) An argument for the abolition of high school movies.

(c) An apologia for high school losers.

(d) A backhanded insult to self-respecting geeks in all walks of life.

(e) All of the above.

Somewhere between (d) and (e), one could probably insert: "An unintentional parody of every teen movie made in the last five years." Which can be the only rational explanation for making such a mess all over the screen.

As is customary with such endeavors, "The New Guy" starts out with a promising set-up. A Texas high schooler named Dizzy Gillespie Harris (DJ Qualls) is first, or last, among misfits at Rocky Creek High School.

Dad (Lyle Lovett), who's a bit of a geek himself, thinks Diz needs both intervention and medication, the latter of which leads to temporary incarceration with a convict named Luther (Eddie Griffin), who schools Diz in the finer arts of intimidation and restraint that can make life easier in the prison or school yards.

Armed with this knowledge, Diz changes his name, his manner and his polyesters for some Brad-Pitt-from-"Fight Club" hair tinge and dark wardrobe to attend East Highland High School as the enigmatic (and hence super cool) Gil Harris. Sure enough, within days of his arrival, the thugs and jocks are giving him a wide berth and the cheerleaders are clamoring for his attention. Moreover, Gil's swagger is proving powerful enough to reverse the fortunes of the mediocre football team and all but obliterate the brutal social caste system separating brains from brawn, nerds from jocks, cool kids from mutants.

No, I didn't buy it either. But we're not supposed to. What we are expected to do is make our way through some hand-me-down grotesqueries bleached and sanded as if they were photocopied from Farrelly brothers movies. The inevitable cheerleader cheesecake shots are trundled forth with such brazen winking that it affects the way one sees the goofy sludge surrounding them.

Maybe the people behind the movie know how ugly and ramshackle it looks, and expect us to laugh not at what's on the screen so much as at those who think what's on the screen is so hilarious.


MPAA rating: PG-13, for sexual content, language, crude humor and mild drug references. Times guidelines: Nothing kids don't see and hear all the time at school, but that doesn't mean you condone it.

Gene Seymour is a film critic for Newsday, a Tribune company.

'The New Guy'

DJ Qualls...Dizzy Harris

Eliza Dushku...Danielle

Zooey Deschanel...Nora

Lyle Lovett...Bear

Eddie Griffin...Luther

A Revolution Studios presentation, released by Columbia Pictures. Director Ed Decter. Producers Gordon Gray, Mark Ciardi. Executive producers John J. Strauss, Ed Decter, Michael Fottrell, Greg Silverman. Screenplay by David Kendall. Cinematographer Michael D. O'Shea. Editor David Rennie. Costume designer Susie DeSanto. Music Ralph Sall. Production designer Dina Lipton. Art director Michael Atwell. Set decorator Suzette Sheets. Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes.

In general release.

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