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The New Guy

DJ Qualls made such an impression playing the emaciated dork in Road Trip that someone thought it would be a good idea to give him his own movie. The result was The New Guy (2002), and it was such a non-presence that it got bumped around the release schedule for over a year, finally arriving in theaters the week after Spider-Man. And in this case, if it looks like a lame comedy and smells like a lame comedy — it actually is one. Qualls stars as Dizzy Harrison, who's part of a tight-knit group of socially diverse friends (Zooey Deschanel, Jerod Mixon, and Parry Shen) he's in a band with. But after being publicly embarrassed on the first day as a senior in high school, he ends up further making a fool out of himself in a shopping mall and gets thrown in prison. There he meets Luther (Eddie Griffin), who becomes his mentor in coolness; the lessons are meant to make Dizzy tough, as Luther knows all about making others cower. And the schooling pays off for Dizzy, as he gets expelled from his old school and goes off to a new school where he quickly becomes the most popular kid and cozies up to the pretty cheerleader Danielle (Eliza Dushku). But — as must be the case — his "real" persona can't stay hidden. Dizzy's nagged by guilt over leaving his real friends behind, while the old-school popular kids are plotting revenge. At the core of The New Guy are some relatively fresh premises that would be enough for a fairly good movie: That high school is similar to prison, that attitude is more important than looks, and that people either define themselves or let others do it for them. Unfortunately, these good ideas seem more a by-product of a formula picture rather than its raison d'être. Beyond that, there's an amusing cameo by Horatio Sanz (though counterbalanced by unamusing cameos from Henry Rollins, Kool Moe Dee, Vanilla Ice, Gene Simmons, Jerry O'Connell, Tony Hawk, David Hassleholf, and Tommy Lee), and Eddie Griffin makes for great comic support. Plus the movie irrevocably proves that Eliza Dushku looks great in a swimsuit. But any picture that relies on someone having a broken penis, midget abuse, and Patton imitations for humor doesn't have much going for it. It's a film that fails not because it's insufferably bad (think Tomcats), but because it could have been a lot better if someone actually cared. Columbia TriStar's DVD release of The New Guy presents both anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) and pan-and-scan (1.33:1) transfers, with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Extras include a music video by Simple Plan and trailers for this and other Columbia films. Keep-case.

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