The New Guy

Movie Information

Genre: Comedy
Director: Ed Decter
Starring: DJ Qualls, Lyle Lovett, Eddie Griffin, Eliza Dushku, Zooey Deschanel
Rated: PG-13

The latest cinematic Thanksgiving dinner from the Revolution Studios poultry farm is far from being the worst of its breed. And it deserves some sort of cockeyed praise for casting Lyle Lovett as the father of comic lead DJ Qualls (Big Trouble), since Qualls is sufficiently odd looking to make the ancestry believable. It gets bonus points, too, for showcasing the considerable comedic talents of Eddie Griffin (John Q) as Luther, the convict who changes Qualls’s world. Beyond that, however, The New Guy is no different than a hundred or so other films of its ilk — except possibly on the decibel level: It may well be the noisiest movie I’ve ever encountered. This is very possibly related to the fact that its soundtrack credits no less than 36 — count ’em — 36 pieces of music, ranging from a cover of The Kinks’ “You Really Got Me” to Ravel’s “Bolero” to Richard Strauss’ Also Sprach Zarathustra to “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” to a boatload of songs I never heard of — and with any luck, I won’t hear again. I suppose it’s mildly encouraging that the perpetrators of this film know who The Kinks, Ravel and Strauss are (though it’s dollars to donuts that they know the Ravel from 10 and the Strauss from 2001). It’s just too bad that they haven’t a clue what to do with their music — the height of creativity being reached when “You Really Got Me” is used to accompany a scene in which the main character is dragged around by his penis in the grip of an elderly librarian. It doesn’t get any better than this. It only gets more trite. Here’s the plot: Dizzy Gillespie Harrison (Qualls) is an ultra-nerd who improbably hooks up with a prisoner named Luther, who teaches him how to turn himself into the ultra-cool Gil Harrison. So Dizzy/Gil gets himself expelled and enters another high school in his new guise and becomes everyone’s hero, only to find out ultimately that he has to be himself. Still awake? No, it isn’t very original, and, worse, it’s not very funny. I’m not sure who its target audience is, but I question the wisdom of basing a lengthy skit on the opening scene of Patton for a presumably 13-to-17-year-old viewership. What this age group has to do with a 32-year-old film I have no clue — nor, I suspect, do the filmmakers, who seem engaged in a desperate bid to throw in everything they can think of and the kitchen sink, not to mention guest spots for Vanilla Ice (remember him?), Gene Simmons and David Hasselhoff. What sets The New Guy marginally apart from the standard run of this sort of movie is that it’s basically good-hearted and attempts to convey something of a positive message within the confines of its sub-genre. And then there’s Eddie Griffin, a performer of sufficient charm and magnetism to seem funny even when the material is wanting. Griffin was the one bright spot in the manipulative John Q, and he similarly illuminates The New Guy. Whether he makes the film worth your time is another question. It might be more advisable to wait for the release of Undercover Brother and see what Griffin can do starring in a movie of his own.

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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