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The Ringer
DVD disk
May 16, 2006 By: Jason Adams
The Ringer order
Director:
Barry Blaustein

Actors:
Johnny Knoxville
Brian Cox
Katherin Heigl

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
A young man is in dire need of money to help pay for a friend’s surgery. So with valiant resolve, he buckles down, gets a second job and, after some careful investments, raises the money himself.

Just kidding! He pretends to be mentally challenged so he can win the Special Olympics.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
You won’t go to hell for watching this movie, I promise. Personally, I can’t stand it when people ridicule the handicapped for a cheap laugh, either in cinema or real life. But here we have a film about a man rigging the Special Olympics for monetary profit and the one word I would use to describe it is… sweet?!

You shouldn’t be surprised to see that THE RINGER was produced by the Farrelly Brothers—not just because it follows their style of crass yet good-hearted comedy, but also due to it sharing their curiously tasteful penchant for using handicapped characters to maximum comedic effect without exploiting them. Still, I was pleasantly surprised by the portrayal of the mentally challenged athletes, which is not as sugar coated or guarded as one might expect. The writers give them the most offensive, scene-stealing jokes in the movie, which ultimately drives home the film’s uplifting message of acceptance.

Despite being outshone by his “special” costars, Johnny Knoxville is still the star of THE RINGER and makes for a likable lead. The filmmakers don’t let him forget his roots though, resulting in the former Jackass star constantly falling down or getting hit in the crotch. (No one takes a fall like Knoxville since the heydays of Chevy Chase or Chris Farley.) It’s also good to see the forever-awesome Brian Cox back in a comedic role after SUPER TROOPERS, playing a bit part as a sleazy gambling addict. And Katherine Heigl is so hot and charming, that I’m tempted to start watching Grey’s Anatomy.

So I liked the movie and the people in it, but strangely I felt it could use more laughs. Yes, there’s some funny, outrageous stuff (including a great use of its one PG-13 f-word), but a lot of the time it felt like everyone was holding back as to not be too offensive. I know it’s a hard line to balance with the subject matter, but the movie and its jokes became way too predictable (with one of the most unbelievable romantic subplots ever). Oh yes, I’ll laugh every time somebody gets pain inflicted to their groin, but I still expect a little more from a comedy. Just a little.
THE EXTRAS
Aside from a delightful little commentary, the disc’s special features are pretty repetitive…the filmmakers want to make sure you know they were not making fun of handicapped people.

Commentary by director Barry Blaustein, screenwriter Ricky Blitt, producer Peter Farrelly and actors Johnny Knoxville, Edward Barbanell and John Taylor: “Johnny, which of these men in this scene did you not rape?” You know you’re in for a good time when a commentary starts off with that! Overall, a hilarious and entertaining track with Knoxville and Blitt (who’s a writer on Family Guy) especially keeping things rolling. I think everyone spent so much time trying not to offend people in the movie itself, that here they just cut loose. Also, I liked that they included two of the handicapped actors, Barbanell and Taylor, who provided their personal viewpoint on the film’s subject matter and execution.

Deleted Scenes (19:15): 16 quick clips, in not-so-great quality. A couple were amusing (especially Knoxville getting some romantic advice from the athletes), but you can see why these were cut.

Special Olympics featurette (3:21): A quick commercial cataloguing the history and outreach of the Special Olympics. This is not just some sympathy organization for the less-abled; these are some truly amazing athletes. (They could whoop my butt in sports!)

A Message from Special Olympics Chairman Tim Shriver (2:10): I was expecting Shriver to talk about the movie and give your approval to laugh and appreciate its heartfelt message. Instead, this ends up being some grainy promotional segment from the early 90’s about the Special Olympics—basically a retread of the previous featurette.

Let The Games Begin featurette (7:03): Some behind-the-scenes footage interspersed with cast and crew talking about how good-natured the movie is. We get it…you’re not poking fun at the Special Olympics!

Also, a Trailer for THANK YOU FOR SMOKING.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
When it comes to comedies, it all boils down to personal taste; what do you find funny? Even if you’re easily offended I can assure you THE RINGER is a decent heartwarming comedy that will leave you feeling pretty good. It also just happens to be about Johnny Knoxville pretending to be mentally retarded.
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