The New Guy

In the brutal pecking order of high school, gangly unpopular boys like Dizzy Harrison (DJ Qualls, Road Trip, Big Trouble) rank at or near the bottom. Diz and his friends play in a funk band, but they still lurk at the bottom of the food chain. No matter what he does, he is still shy in front of hot women and the tough kids beat him up. So when he ends up in jail after an accident involving a senior citizen and his genitalia (it's not funny in the movie either) he decides to remake himself at a new school; to start over, but this time as one of the cool kids. The New Guy is utterly derivative and it realizes this and wallows in it. Paradoxically, this makes the film better than it could ever hope to be, although it is still far below par. With its feel-good mentality, it has its heart in the right place. However, it also has no sense of originality or intelligence.

In jail, Diz meets Luther (Eddie Griffin, Double Take, John Q.), a man who was in the same situation as Diz. Except for Luther, it was a different prison. He teaches Diz the ropes behind looking and acting tough, and soon Diz is ready to re-emerge at the high school across town as Gil Harris, stud bad boy. His new bag of tricks include a wicked stare and a bunch of attitude, and soon the entire school is eating out of his hands. He is particularly interested in Danielle (Eliza Dushku, Soul Survivors, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back), a fetching classmate. Danielle is attracted to Gil. What Diz doesn't realize is that 'Gil' is just a persona. He is really Diz. His friends and bandmates realize this, and Diz begins to drift away from them, basking in his newfound popularity as Gil.

It's not an original story, and David Kendall (The Growing Pains Movie) and director Ed Decter make no effort to distinguish it from anything else. At times, it feels more fun trying to identify all of the cameo appearances. Henry Rollins, Vanilla Ice, David Hasselhoff, Tony Hawk, Tommy Lee, Gene Simmons, and Jerry O'Connell, among others make quick appearances. Lyle Lovett (3 Days of Rain, Cookie's Fortune) and Illeana Douglas (Ghost World, The Next Best Thing) are also amusing as Diz's overcaring and somewhat clueless father and guidance counselor. Griffin tones down his usual schtick and is not in the film that much, so he is much more bearable than he usually is.

At various points, the plot falters because Kendall and Decter have no idea what to do. When it becomes clear that it's time for the movie to come to its conclusion, it does so clumsily. At no point is there any doubt what will happen. Diz is first a good guy. He loses sight of his old friends and marvels at his new popularity. His old friends get mad, and he doesn't care that much. Then, something will happen to expose him, and his old friends will rally to his side, Danielle will hesitate then run to him, and everybody will be happy and hold hands and sing Kum Ba Yah. And maybe it's this clumsiness that gives The New Guy a small amount of charm that is enough to make it watchable.

Haro Rates It: Not That Good.
1 hour, 29 minutes, Rated PG-13 for sexual content, language, crude humor, and mild drug references.

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