The New Guy (2002) — From zero to antihero

“BACK IN THE TRUCK!”

Justin’s rating: Are you ready to ROCK? Well, will you be soon?

Justin’s review: Let me describe a film to you. There’s a geek who is klutzy yet lovable. Said geek is embarrassed in front of the entire school. There’s a high school that has *gasp* several cliques and class divisions among the student body. The geek gets a makeover. The geek becomes popular through this superficial transformation… and loves it. Well, at least until the geek realizes that they’ve alienated former best friends (geeks as well). Geek makes enemies with former high school bigshot, but draws the attention of the ultra-popular love interest. Everybody goes to the big football game. Geek finally unites the student body, gets the love interest, and makes up with friends, all at the big school prom.

Oh, you heard of this movie?

I jest, of course. This is the plot of every teen movie in the past fifteen years, more or less. While trying to offer clever insight into the workings of teens during high school, they instead give us a grotesque parody of what adolescence is really about — and they rehash it, again and again. Long gone are the experimental forays into true teen life, which is why the ’80s teen comedies are still revered as some of the best ever made. Now, now we get kids on film who are so painfully self-referential and have seven-syllable word vocabularies that they come across as some sort of higher godlike alien race bent on rubbing our noses in our ordinariness. Ordinarity? Ordinarynism?

This is why I hold little hope for any teen comedy these days, including The New Guy, which looked good in the trailer… but hey, I knew it was going to be the same old thing. And it *is.* That whole first paragraph? That’s this film, only with a guy in the usual girl-geek role, getting a makeover. Yet even with a Space Invaders-barrage of alien clichés, The New Guy tweaked my nose and made it fun. How can this be?

Exhibit A is lead star and transformed geek, DJ Qualls. Qualls is best known (and previous to this film, only known) for his role as the uber-nerd in Road Trip; some (me) say that he was the best thing about that movie. Here, Qualls doesn’t just act the geek, he wears the body suit — his Pinnochio nose, stick-thin physique and foppish hair all sum up perfectly why wedgies were ever invented. As we follow Dizzy (Qualls) through his adventure to finally become popular, he is so completely believable as a loser and winning as a sincere heart that you’d have to be Satan or something to not like him. Qualls rocks.

Exhibit B is the sheer irreverance for the source material. I couldn’t exactly figure out if The New Guy was trying to do a satire of teen movies intentionally or not, but it does have fun taking the old and making it weird enough to seem new. Dizzy’s transformation from geek to stud doesn’t take place at the hands of a well-intentioned friend; it takes place inside a prison. Yup! When you need to create A New You, just make some friends in prison (surprisingly nice folk, after the mandatory body cavity searches) and they’ll teach you everything you ever need know about being tough. Also, line dancing.

Dizzy ends up at a new high school as “Gil” (arriving in a prison transport vehicle and looking like a very thin Hannibal Lecter), and immediately picks a fight with the biggest, baddest jock. Problem is, nobody’s around to see him win the fight, so he keeps dragging the body around until finally the whole school can see. Heh. It’s stuff like that that kept me enthralled with a serious case of laughter. The traditional high school cliques are also handled mockingly, as every group in school has their own tier at the outdoor picnic area to hang at (and the better groups are higher up… get it? You do! Wow, you’re special!).

Exhibit C is just the right amount of fantasy/parody scenes that are created, from an awesome Braveheart takeoff to Vanilla Ice as a music store employee who just needs to get physically brutal with the customers. You’ll have fun with the cameos, by the way. Tony Hawk gets his due, here.

Really, The New Guy isn’t new. It’s old school. It’s aired-out undies, back for one final wear before laundry day. But dang if it didn’t keep me entertained and smiling from the beginning through the funny outtakes during the end credits. I think we need to see Qualls take over every acting job from Leonardo DiCaprio, and do it now!

Didja notice?

  • The James Brown dance with the afro.. hehe!
  • Security cameras have a lot of wiring
  • The prisoner making a break for it
  • A male makeover
  • The serial killer transport truck
  • Dizzy walking away from the burning statue to Phil Collin’s “In The Air Tonight” was so perfect
  • Everyone ignoring Tony Hawk is funny
  • The Patton spoof
  • They could make an entire movie out of Eliza Dushku trying on swimsuits, and we’d show up
  • The music store bouncer (Vanilla Ice, btw)… don’t these guys come standard with these places now?
  • When musical montages begin, EVERYone dances
  • Bros Jerry and Charlie O’Connell
  • Gene Simmons as a preacher

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