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The New Guy (August 23/02)

The New Guy represents every non-popular teen's fantasy of what their high school life could have been like. The titular "new guy" of the film, played by D.J. Qualls, gets the chance to completely reinvent himself when he winds up at a different school and not surprisingly, he turns into a badass.

As the movie opens, Qualls and his three friends (who also play in a band) are starting up another year of high school which promises to bring a lot of bullying and social isolation. But Qualls, after a school-wide humiliation, decides enough is enough and figures a change of scenery is just what he needs. He concocts a scheme that not only gets him expelled from school, but lands him in prison as well. While behind bars, he hooks up with a tough prisoner (played by Eddie Griffin) and learns how to act ferocious. Upon his release and enrollment into a new school, he quickly becomes one of the most popular kids there. But at what price?

The New Guy plays like an afterschool special, albeit with some pretty big names in supporting roles. There's absolutely nothing here that can't be predicted beforehand; there's even a sequence in which Qualls, out on a date with the prettiest girl at school (Eliza Dushku), has to pretend he doesn't know his old friends. If that's not cheesy enough for you, wait until you see the final 20 minutes. Not only does everyone at the new school find out about Qualls' old life, but Qualls has to stand up and give a horrendously lame speech about how inner beauty is more important than anything else.

Yes, The New Guy is the sort of paint-by-numbers film that's become increasingly more commonplace nowadays. Though the movie's rated PG-13, there are still a number of moments that would be quite welcome in an R-rated gross-out comedy (the struggle between the principal and his bowels is certainly the lowlight - or whatever the opposite of highlight is). One of the only bright spots is a cameo appearance by Vanilla Ice, in what I presume is his first appearance in a film since Cool as Ice. As an aggressive record store owner, Ice provides the movie's only laughs. And Dushku, playing a slutty cheerleader with a heart of gold, once again proves that she's got charisma to spare (but not nearly enough to save the movie from sucking).

The New Guy's no worse than other teen recent teen-aimed flicks like Slackers, but that's not exactly a compliment.

out of

© David Nusair