Rated PG-13 - Running Time: 1:29 - Released 5/10/02

D.J. Qualls has been playing geeky characters throughout his short movie career, from Road Trip to Big Trouble. Believing him as a geek is not the problem—he definitely looks the part. The trouble is, Ed Decter's eminently forgettable teen comedy The New Guy attempts to convert him into a suave, scary-cool funk musician who attracts the school hottie and leads the inept football team to a winning season by instilling patriotism in the student body. Qualls has charm, but it's a tall order. Acting is really not the issue, though; the movie is a rather insipid waste of time, as first-time director Decter and writer David Kendall don't seem interested in trying anything new, but choose simply to grind out another mindless high school frolic. Why Columbia Pictures decided to release this film in the middle of blockbuster season is another question; its unfortunate placement between Spider-Man and Star Wars II will prove to be box-office suicide.

Qualls plays Dizzy Harrison, an aspiring funk bassist and whipping boy at a Texas high school whose status as a "blip" (on the radar screen of life) results in his being the victim of constant humiliating pranks and abuse, along with his "blip" bandmates, Nora (Zooey Deschanel), Kirk (Jerod Mixon), and Glen (Parry Shen). After a particularly embarrassing incident gets him expelled and sent to jail for indecent exposure, he meets Luther (Eddie Griffin), an inmate who used to be similarly abused, but has learned to intimidate others primarily through the use of a scary stare and a crazy reputation. Luther convinces Dizzy to start over at a new school with a new identity, using his technique to assure his position at the top of the heap. So Diz changes his name to Gil Harris and descends upon Highland High School, where he is soon feared and/or respected by all except Connor (Ross Patterson), a bully whose disgust for Gil grows as the new guy becomes increasingly friendly with his girlfriend, head cheerleader Danielle (Eliza Dushku). But as Gil's stature grows, he is forced to choose between his new popularity and the friendship of his geeky bandmates.

Although this film has a nice funky soundtrack (always a plus) and some sexy cheerleader booty-shaking for the guys out there, it is really just a formula picture undeserving of much critical comment. Mentioning plot holes or logical discrepancies would be almost redundant; this is a case where no critic's opinion will affect the film's failure. There are a few strange-but-true celebrity cameos, like Ileana Douglas as the misguided school nurse, Lyle Lovett as Dizzy's loving but idiotic father, and several marginally famous musicians (Gene Simmons without his Kiss makeup, Tommy Lee, Vanilla Ice, etc.). If you're a teenager who likes to laugh at corny jokes and mindless high school romance, you'll probably enjoy it. If you're not, you won't. Enough said. **

Copyright 2002 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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