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The Ringer

Go For Gold

The Farrelly brothers have carved out a nice niche for themselves as veritable pioneers of politically incorrect humor. With films poking fun at the obese (Shallow Hal) and Siamese twins (Stuck On You), is it really any surprise that the latest film produced by the Farrelly brothers involves a man posing as someone who is mentally challenged in order to win the Special Olympics?

Regardless of how delicate (or indelicate) your sensibilities may be the premise itself is bound to elicit a guffaw…even if it's behind closed doors. Johnny Knoxville (of "Jackass" fame) stars as "The Ringer" (aka-Steve Barker), a man who finds himself in desperate need of cash.

Fortunately, Steve's smarmy Uncle Gary is a master at concocting ridiculous schemes for raising (well…primarily losing) cash. Gary's (Brian Cox) latest harebrained scheme involves Steve winning the Special Olympics while posing as a developmentally challenged athlete. Gary bets a nice chunk of change on "anyone" other than six-time champion, Jimmy, winning the games.

Far from being a "ringer", Steve often looks like the one who's challenged out on the track as his competitors are, in fact, legitimate athletes. Complicating matters is Steve's poor acting job as "Jeffy", a fellow developmentally challenged athlete. His peers are on to him faster than Michael Johnson.

Jeffy/Steve is ably played by Johnny Knoxville. Johnny is infinitely more amusing as Jeffy than as his alter-ego Steve. While Knoxville has his fair share of funny lines, it's really the ensemble cast of character actors and legitimate Special Olympians that elicits the most laughter. Knoxville's supporting cast consistently entertains and endears.

While the Farrelly brothers didn't write or direct The Ringer (Ricky Blitt wrote and Barry Blaustein directed); The Ringer bears all the hallmarks of a Farrelly brother's film. You have un-PC humor, an absurd premise, and a warmhearted resolution.

In previous Farrelly brothers' films, the protagonist is almost invariably a loser, but not irredeemable by the end of the film. If there's one criticism that can be made of The Ringer it's that Steve's character just doesn't seem redeemable. Steve is pretty reprehensible despite the fact that Blitt and Blaustein work hard to make him look like a nice guy.

Ultimately, it's a small criticism for a film that is funny most of the time and somehow manages to take a pretty offensive premise and turn it into a positive and empowering message about the developmentally disabled.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars