On paper, The Ringer must sound like the most un-PC movie in the history of cinema. After all, Johnny Knoxville from MTV’s Jackass plays a character in need of some cash, so he pretends to be “Jeffy” — a mentally challenged athlete — in order to fix the Special Olympics.
However, this movie is produced by the Farrelly Brothers, and as they have done in their past films (There’s Something About Mary, Shallow Hal), the Farrellys treat mentally and physically challenged people with resp…ct — casting them in large supporting roles — which allows The Ringer to become an endearing film, rather than the offensive and insulting piece of crap it could have easily become.
Knoxville is immediately likeable as Steve Barber, the nice guy loser who can’t even fire his company’s janitor, Stavi (Luis Avalos) so he hires him to cut the grass at his apartment complex. Those who aren’t familiar with Knoxville from Jackass aren’t likely to be the target audience for this film, but if they do stumble across The Ringer they’ll be pleasantly surprised to see that Knoxville can be charming and funny with a script.
After Stavi loses three fingers in an accident, Steve must raise $28,000 to help pay for Stavi’s operation. Steve turns to his degenerate uncle Gary (Brian Cox), who concocts the plot to fix the Special Olympics. While Cox is appropriately slimey, and does have a few funny lines, I would say that he’s better served in historical epics and dramas. He doesn’t fail in The Ringer, but he is a bit underused. However, Cox gives it his all, which is nice to see from an actor who might think the material is beneath him.
Upon entering the Special Olympics as Jeffy, Steve befriends a group of mentally challenged athletes who know right off the bat that Steve is faking it as Jeffy. After they hear Steve’s reason for fixing the Special Olympics, they agree to train him — and then even help him win over Lynn (Katherine Heigl), a beautiful Special Olympics volunteer. This leads to many funny lines and situations that eventually lead to the games themselves, where Steve finds out that winning the gold won’t be as easy as he initially thought.
Overall, The Ringer is a refreshing comedy that is both funny and respectful of the very thing that makes it funny — the Special Olympics. The cast is game — and they work well with the mentally challenged members of the cast — resulting in a warm movie where everyone comes out a winner in the end.
The Ringer is presented in both a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen and 1.33:1 full screen aspect ratio. The picture is slightly washed out at times, but otherwise the image is clear and bright. Border lines aren’t crisp or razor sharp, leading to the aforementioned “washed out” look. However, this problem is very subtle and doesn’t take away from the viewing experience.
The disc is presented in a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track that handles its own for a comedy. The front speakers get an overwhelming amount of work, as the film is dialogue driven, but when a character moves around the sound field, sounds and voices move to the appropriate speaker. The musical score is rather weak, and won’t stretch your system’s legs, but is always audible and clear. Again, the soundtrack handles the material well, but The Ringer won’t be used to showcase your home theater anytime soon.
Commentary with by director Barry W. Blaustein, screenwriter Ricky Blitt, producer Peter Farrelly, and actors Johnny Knoxville, Edward Barbanell and John Taylor – everyone here is clearly having a good time on the commentary, which results in one of the funnier and more entertaining commentaries I’ve heard in a while. It also enhances my appreciation of the film, hearing the cast and crew talk about what went into making the film.
Deleted Scenes – 11 scenes deleted from the film for various pacing and quality reasons, although some of them are actually funny and could have remained in the film.
Let the Games Begin: A look at The Ringer — this featurette discusses the importance of casting Johnny Knoxville in the film. The reasoning behind this is that the kids who watch Jackass are thought to be the ones who call the mentally challenged kids “retard” on the playground. And if they go to see this movie since Knoxville is in it, it may cause them to rethink how they treat mentally challenged kids. It makes sense to me. The feature also discusses the importance of getting the support and cooperation of the Special Olympics.
Special Olympics Featurette – a look at the history and importance of the Special Olympics.
Message from Tim Shriver, Special Olympics Chairman
The Ringer came and went in the theaters pretty quickly, but should find success on DVD. The film is funny and endearing, the A/V is given fair treatment, and the special features are extensive, humorous, and educational — leading to a pleasant experience all around.
Special Features List
- Commentary with by director Barry W. Blaustein, screenwriter Ricky Blitt, producer Peter Farrelly, and actors Johnny Knoxville, Edward Barbanell and John Taylor
- Deleted Scenes
- Let the Games Begin: A look at The Ringer
- Special Olympics Featurette
- Message from Tim Shriver, Special Olympics Chairman