by Kevin Carr
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|| MOVIE: **1/2 (out of 5 stars)
DVD EXPERIENCE: ***1/2 (out of 5 stars)
Johnny Knoxville as STEVE BARKER
Brian Cox as UNCLE GARY
Katherine Heigl as LYNN SHERIDAN
Edward Barbanell as BILLY
Bill Chott as THOMAS
Jed Rees as GLEN
Studio: Fox Searchlight
Directed by: Barry W. Blaustein
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Like most people, when I first heard there was a comedy about Johnny Knoxville fixing the Special Olympics, I cringed. We all know how Knoxville can be in the spotlight, and it had to be a nightmare of political incorrectness.
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Then, “The Ringer” came into the theatres. I missed it in its run, partly due to schedule, but now I’ve seen it on DVD. And my biggest complaint about the film is that it was too soft.
I’m not saying that the film should have become a platform to make fun of the mentally challenged. However, I thought it pulled its punches a little too much. To the film’s credit, the pacing was pretty rocky, leaving a cut that felt like things were changed, moved and deleted in the editing process.
Actually, “The Ringer” is a rather sweet movie, which tends to be what producers Peter and Bobby Farrelly end up delivering with their other films that initially seem offensive. It tells the story of a guy named Steve (Knoxville) who is just a kind-hearted soul. After he’s ordered to fire a janitor at work, he hires the guy to be his personal gardener. Mix self-employment, no health insurance and a freak lawnmower accident, and Steve finds himself facing a five-figure medical bill.
In order to raise the money for the bill, Steve joins with his smarmy uncle Gary (Brian Cox) to fix the Special Olympics. Steve joins as an athlete, and Gary bets a load of money on him. However, as Steve interacts with other athletes, he discovers that his fellow Olympians are actually people too.
There are some pretty funny scenes in the film, however the actors that draw the most laughs are the supporting cast. Particularly funny is Edward Barbanell, who really has Downs Syndrome. He manages to upstage his fully functioning castmates to provide some of the most biting humor in the piece.
Anyone who has seen “There’s Something About Mary” knows that the Farrelly brothers can use the handicapped respectfully well in their comedy. However, with a different director for this film (Barry W. Blaustein), the core humor isn’t present.
Overall, “The Ringer” is a decent film but suffers a bit under its own message. I suppose it is a good thing, with Knoxville being the hero for playground bullies and drunken frat boys. As it is pointed out in the special features, the real-life Special Olympians were thrilled with Knoxville’s involvement because his fans are the ones that give them such a hard time in the schoolyard.
The DVD comes with a hefty serving of special features. Sixteen deleted scenes are available, along with an audio commentary by director Barry W. Blaustein, screenwriter Ricky Blitt, producer Peter Farrelly and actors Johnny Knoxville, Edward Barbanell and John Taylor.
Included in the bonus materials include several featurettes showing the support of the Special Olympics. One is basically a commercial for the organization and another is a message about the Special Olympics from its chairman Tim Shriver. However, the most enlightening piece is the making-of featurette that explains the filmmakers’ involvement with the organization.
Ultimately, “The Ringer” is a victim of prejudice, considering the film’s release was stalled for many months because there was fear it wouldn’t be understood. In a society not so crippled by political correctness, there might be a little more freedom to examine our own hang-ups with the tools of comedy.
Specifications: Dolby 5.1 Surround Sound. Fullscreen (1.33:1) and widescreen (2.35:1). Spanish language track. French and Spanish subtitles. English language subtitles for the hearing impaired.