Movie review, 'The New Guy'

Dorks rule.

That's the theme of "The New Guy," a movie that seems made for teenage boys who act like geeks but yearn to push around bullies and date sexy cheerleaders. That ultra-dork constituency may take some consolation and pleasure from this aggressively witless new gross-out comedy. A few more segments of the teen audience may like it too - especially if they have lots of time to kill and no desire to exert a single brain cell.

Others beware. This is a truly awful movie, made from one of the worst scripts in memory. "The New Guy" has been on the shelf for more than a year, and it's clear the reason for the long wait wasn't perfectionism. More likely, it was embarrassment.

The film stars DJ Qualls, the humorous hanger-on of "Road Trip," in a role and movie he may be living down for years. As Dizzy Gillespie Harrison, a suburban bottom dog who takes stud lessons from a prison inmate named Luther (Eddie Griffin), he switches schools and names (to Gil Harris) and becomes the sexiest hoodlum of East Highland High, with Brad Pitt hair highlights and a repertoire of crazy-eye snarls and go-for-the-groin fight tricks. Soon, bullies cringe at his approach and knockout head cheerleader Danielle (Eliza Dushku) has ditched her BMOC jock boyfriend, Connor (Ross Patterson), to become Gil's main squeeze. His band, "Suburban Funk," is hired as star attraction at the prom, and the entire football team, previously winless, is inspired by pep talks to make a state championship run.

The movie is bad beyond belief and ridiculous beyond description - though it has that veneer of studio slickness that sometimes cons the gullible. Director Ed Decter and executive producer John J. Strauss were the co-writers, along with the Farrelly Brothers, on "There's Something About Mary," but "The New Guy" suggests they contributed more bad taste than humor. Here, they keep springing more dopey, stomach-churning gags on us, such as having an 80-year-old female librarian grab and break Gil's organ during registration. There's one excruciating scene where a principal is caught on candid camera grunting away in a toilet stall. The movie also would have us believe that Gil can turn football losers into winners by staging pep talks and rallies that parody movies like "Patton" and "Braveheart."

Two actors emerge from this fiasco a little ahead. Eliza Dushku of TV's "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" (and also the marvelous child star of 1992's "That Night") gives a very foxy performance as Danielle. And Griffin manages to pull laughs out of material that is often beneath the bottom of the barrel. "New Guy" also has a roster of famous or infamous rock stars - including Gene Simmons, Tommy Lee, Henry Rollins and Vanilla Ice - playing idiotic cameos, as well as fine actors - Illeana Douglas, Geoffrey Lewis, Kurt Fuller - in supporting roles also making fools of themselves.

The last three, whom I have enjoyed for years, play a deranged counselor, a constipated principal and a screaming superintendent, and in each case they achieve career nadirs in little screen time. The highlight of Lyle Lovett's slightly longer but even worse performance as Gil's dad, Bear, comes when he accidentally sets his nose on fire. The film concludes with a series of blooper outtakes that, in this case, are hard to distinguish from the actual movie.

"The New Guy" is also somewhat hypocritical, truckling to kids at the same time it attacks their sometimes false values: picking fights with strangers, humiliating enemies and letting appearances determine friendships - it actually secretly caters to them. If you believe Hollywood, America's teenagers are obsessed with sex, status, rock 'n' roll and toilets, in about that order. But you have to have faith that kids will recognize a bad movie when it's foisted on them - and they don't get much worse than "The New Guy."

"The New Guy"
1 star

Directed by Ed Decter; written by David Kendall; photographed by Michael D. O'Shea; edited by David Rennie; production designed by Dina Lipton; music by Ralph Sall; produced by Todd Garner. A Columbia Pictures release; opens Friday, May 10. Running time: 1:40. MPAA rating: PG-13 (sexual content, language, crude humor, mild drug references).
Dizzy - DJ Qualls
Danielle - Eliza Dushku
Nora - Zooey Deschanel
Bear - Lyle Lovett
Kirk - Jerod Mixon
Luther - Eddie Griffin Glen - Parry Shen

Michael Wilmington is the Chicago Tribune Movie Critic.

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