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'New Guy, The'

Latest teen flick pulls out usual tricks

Friday, May 10, 2002

By Barbara Vancheri, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

School ... prison.

Prison ... school.

'The New Guy'

RATING: PG-13 for sexual content, language, crude humor and mild drug references.



WEB SITE: www.spe.sony.com



Both have bad food, high fences and what we'll delicately call unfulfilling relationships. That's what Dizzy Gillespie Harrison (DJ Qualls) learns when he briefly lands in a Texas penitentiary and meets a guy who, like him, once was bullied.

Diz figures he has officially become the biggest loser in school and is not going back. His new pal (Eddie Griffin) and the other men in the exercise yard help Diz to remake himself so he can enroll at a new school -- as Gil Harris -- and be the cool new guy, not the old nerd whose tidy whities are yanked around his head and who is lashed to a chair and photographed wearing fake rubber breasts.

"The New Guy" charts Dizzy's attempt to remake himself and juggle the cheerleaders (Eliza Dushku, among them) suddenly inviting him to parties and his old misfit friends who play in his band, Suburban Funk. If you've seen one teen comedy, you've seen all the blips in this one as Diz/Gil is hailed for his hipness and compassion, as he discards the old friends and as his choices come home to roost.

Toss in football games, a dance, cameos by Gene Simmons, Vanilla Ice, Tommy Lee, David Hasselhoff and Tony Hawk, cinematic references to "Patton" and "Braveheart" and you're there. Lyle Lovett might be a good physical match to play Dizzy's clueless dad but his skills are wasted.

Yes, "The New Guy" reminds us that you shouldn't mistreat the midget tuba player in the band, that flat-chested girls with braces can turn into hot cheerleaders and that you shouldn't care what others think about you. But haven't we learned from other movies?

Qualls ("Road Trip") makes a sympathetic sad sack who can't believe his elevation into the cool crowd but the movie has a cheap look and cut-and-paste feel. Overheard, from a legit teen, on the way out: Glad I didn't pay to see that.

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