The Ringer
directed by Barry W. Blaustein
(20th Century Fox, 2005)

Mix the Farrelly brothers of There's Something About Mary with Johnny Knoxville of television's Jackass fame. Now, as producers and star, give them a film about people with developmental disabilities and the Special Olympics.

It seems to be a contest in how to make the most tasteless movie combination possible.

But -- and it's a big "but" -- The Ringer doesn't even come close to being the most tasteless film of the year. In fact, it ends up being kind of sweet, mildly humored (with a few Farrelly-touch exceptions) and, most of all, respectful of the Special Olympians who share the screen with Knoxville (and often steal it, too).

The gist of The Ringer: Knoxville is Steve, deep in debt. His uncle's bright idea: enter the Special Olympics to compete against those athletes while the uncle will set gambling odds on Steve to win.

Even though Steve, as "special athlete Jeffrey Dahmor," can't fool the Special Olympics athletes -- all played by real Special Olympians -- they all keep quiet about the conspiracy because they don't like the perennial champion Jimmy, his ego, his retinue, his stretch limo or his endorsement deals.

The strength of The Ringer is these Special Olympians, whose performances on and off the field are more than able foils for Knoxville's abilities. And the film was given the official blessing of the Special Olympics.

It's a Farrelly movie, no mistake: physical comedy at the forefront, a "lesson" to be learned, and a willingness of its participants to go with the flow. Most of writer Ricky Blitt's credits are for television's The Family Guy, and the style of humor is similar.

But it flags when the real Special Olympians aren't onscreen. They're the heart and soul of The Ringer in more ways than one.

by Jen Kopf
7 April 2007

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