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The Ringer

Masquerading under the guise of an "inspirational story," The Ringer hits a new low for Hollywood. Producers may have exploited their way into some (intentional, of course) controversy buzz, but don't expect audiences to be fooled by this unfunny hoax of a comedy.


When ordered to fire a long-time janitor named Stavi (Luis Avalos), Steve Barker (Johnny Knoxville) softens the blow by hiring him to mow the lawn at his apartment complex. Steve didn't provide him with health insurance, so Stavi naturally loses a few fingers in a mowing accident and now it'll cost thousands to save the digits. What's a guy to do? Why, of course, fix the Special Olympics—a suggestion of Steve's degenerate uncle, Gary (Brian Cox), who's also in the financial dumps. Former track star Steve reluctantly goes along with the scam and competes in the Special Olympics. His competitors are quick to pick up on his ruse, but they decide to help him after Steve explains his motive. He must also try not to disappoint Lynn (Katherine Heigl), the beautiful volunteer who doesn't know of his real identity. What's a guy to do? Take the high road, of course.


Certainly Knoxville—of Jackass infamy and debauchery—would have no moral trepidation about headlining offensive, exploitative crap like The Ringer, but stardom beckons him if he only he stops aiming so damn low! His performance here was probably not as easy as it'd seem, but it's reasonable to think that Jackass stunts involving a bottle of absinthe and some paper cuts to the cornea quickly eliminated any butterflies. What Knoxville has in spades is that rare charisma to prevent him from ever looking uncool. Then there's Cox, the latest revered journeyman to sell his soul on the cheap for a role completely beneath him. Mostly disabled actors round out the cast, uttering any and all funny lines, but there's something fundamentally wrong when the audience erupts in laughter before the lines are even delivered.


Though the Farrelly brothers—directors of There's Something About Mary and Dumb & Dumber--only acted as executive producers of The Ringer, their lowbrow stamp is smeared all over. Directing chores were handed over to Barry Blaustein, prolific writer of comedies like Coming to America, making his feature directorial debut. The Ringer delivers on its promise of frat-dude humor, and Blaustein certainly knows how to make his leading man shine—but it does so in cheap, sophomoric ways.

Bottom Line rated this film 1 1/2 stars.