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The New Guy

(2002) * Pg-13
90 min. Columbia. Director: Bilge Ebiri (II). Cast: Kelly Miller, Scott Janes, Jonathan Uffelman, Johnny Ray (II), Tobi-Lyn Byers.

In an apparent effort to get all the business there is to be had at the movies, Columbia offers us a teen comedy for the Spider-Man run-off crowd. But The New Guy is strictly theater filler, whose only invention is convincing a "B" and "C" list of celebrities to pad their resume with dreck-y cameos.

Let me save you some trouble: old vet Geoffrey Lewis (whose only scene is an embrarrasing squat on a toilet), Kool Mo Dee, Tommy Lee, Vanilla Ice, Henry Rollins, Horatio Sanz, Gene Simmons, Tony Hawk, David Hasselhoff, and the O'Connell Brothers (that's Jerry and Charlie, of course) line up for this dispiritingly lame, umpteenth variation on Pygmalion, the popular teen-movie template recently deconstructed in Not Another Teen Movie, apparently to no avail. But George Bernard Shaw, as good as he may have been, probably never imagined a penis-breaking scene.

This is but one social plight befalling the improbably named Dizzy Gillespie Harrison (DJ Squalls of Road Trip, who, oddly enough, worships the Godfather of Soul (and once you get past the giddy, pre-teen James Brown dance, it's all downhill). "Diz," of course, is sort of cool already because he plays in a band called Suburban Funk with all his friends, but after winding up in jail (don't ask), he learns life lessons from a con played by Eddie Griffin (really, don't ask). With a mentor on board, the newly christened "Gil Harris" sets about banishing his status as a "blip" (on the radar screen) and becoming "funky" (as in "Play That Funky Music (White Boy)," the inevitable--and funkless--finale). Lest I forget, Ileanna Douglas and Lyle Lovett spend the movie as an apparently platonic odd couple: she the boy's school counselor, he the boy's father.

First-time director Decter, who's been toiling for about a decade behind the filmic scenes, brings almost nothing to the party, unwisely burying the film's opportunity to have a little heart under broad, Zucker-brothers-style comedy (and crappy production value). The comedy is sound-effects-driven, like a cartoon, but only the whipcracking, scary looks (taught by Griffin) connect, so Decter runs them into the ground. Decter also throws in a gratuitous swimsuit fashion show and a few bland, one-minute movie-parody diversions (he gets an eleventh-hour rise out of the Braveheart knock-off). Not content there, he indulges in the crotch-centric, theatre-of-cruelty style wrought by the Farrellys. But when a movie pursues laughs by kicking a midget in a garbage can down a hill, how is the film any better than the bully?

The cast is nominally likeable but adrift, with the histrionic Squalls (looking like Emo Phillips, Jr.) unsuited to a leading role. Griffin's spunky, "gotcha" comedy is welcome in short bursts, and the lovely Eliza Dushku gamely tosses clay-pigeon dialogue into the open.

Finally, the bizarre, half-assed plotline and amateurish technique add up to the condescending, teen equivalent of a kiddie flick: wish fulfillment with the dubious payoff of a muddy message. Don't forget, kids: be grateful for who you are and what you have, but you can do much better if you'd just reinvent yourselves...and don't forget to visit jail before passing "Go." Oh, just forget it.

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