starring DJ Qualls, Lyle Lovett, Eddie Griffin, Eliza Dushku
screenplay by David Kendall
directed by Ed Decter
by Walter Chaw What begins as a potentially subversive take on the inner-city school problem becomes the unlikely film that would be better with more Eddie Griffin. It's a precipitous fall facilitated by the requisite defecation gag, by too many cameos from has-beens (Henry Rollins, Gene Simmons) and never-weres (Vanilla Ice, Tommy Lee, David Hasselhoff), and by the criminal misuse of Lyle Lovett and Illeana Douglas.
Dizzy Harrison (DJ Qualls) has a penis mishap and decides to get himself expelled from his high school so that he can start over at a new one. This worries his blue-collar dad (Lovett) and hippie guidance counsellor (Douglas) while causing no end of angst for his left-behind geek-mates (Zooey Deschanel, Parry Shen). With a crash course in "cool" from wily con Luther (a hilarious Griffin) and parodies of films as diverse as Patton, Braveheart, and Urban Cowboy, The New Guy is a hastily hashed together mess of sketches that run the gamut from surreal (Lovett gets a burning marshmallow to the eye, a prisoner's best friend appears to be a jar of mayonnaise) to stultifying (too many to mention).
It isn't that the film is without its charms--not the least of which the comely Eliza Dushku trying on a variety of bikinis before reverting to her standard cheerleader outfit (she essentially reprises her Bring It On role)--and neither is it without its occasional laughs. The problem with The New Guy is that it has the opportunity to be something interesting at best and coherent at worst, but squanders each chance at quality with the kind of casual indifference endemic to this particular breed of hit-and-run Revenge of the Nerds knock-off garbage. The New Guy even finds time to shoehorn in an underdog sports intrigue while abandoning every single one of its subplots save the one that gets Dizzy laid at last.
Puerile and demeaning but not enough so that it's actually worth your time, The New Guy might ironically serve as notice that Eddie Griffin can finally be taken seriously as potential lead comic actor material. The picture is otherwise a breezy ninety minutes showcasing the extremely limited talents of the grotesque Qualls, an over-reliance on the conditioned amusement-factor of tuba-playing dwarfs getting tossed, and the kind of chaste exploitation flick that will only really appeal to young teens and dirty old men. As soon forgotten as watched, look for The New Guy on video before the summer's out. Originally published: May 10, 2002.