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Friday, February 10, 2017

The New Guy

There's only a few plots in high school comedies--nerds defeat jocks, and loser gets girl, or both. In The New Guy, it's the latter, with the added trope of the nerd reinventing himself as the cool guy, then realizing he was better off being true to himself.

DJ Qualls is our nerd, Dizzie (named after Dizzie Gillespie), who is in a funk band with his equally nerdy friends (including a young Zooey Deschanel--this was a 2002 film). They call themselves "blips," as blips on the radar, hardly noticeable. In his first day of senior year he tries to be more positive and ends up getting his penis broken by a wheelchair-bound librarian.

He decides he's going to go to another school and, after a stint in jail for disrupting a church choir (led by Gene Simmons, of all people) he takes advice from Eddie Griffin, who teaches him how to be feared and respected. Qualls takes this to a new school, where he takes on the alpha dog and becomes the most popular kid in school, winning the jerk's girlfriend (Eliza Dushku). Of course, he will be outed by the end, but all turns out well, as it always does in high school comedies.

This is a pretty bad film, directed by Ed Decter, with the usual bawdy humor and homosexual panic jokes. I never cracked a smile, but I kind of admired the effort that was made, especially by the cast, who must have known how bad it was. Qualls, with his head shaped like a puppet's, makes a winning underdog (he played the same kind of role in Road Trip) and as the coolest dude in school, manages to make everyone tolerant of the outsider (including a very short actor playing a tuba).

It's a tired premise (I remember Rachel Lee Cook just had to take off her glasses in She's All That, so this one at least made the hero work hard) but with enough positive energy, and funk music, that I would give it two stars instead of one.

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