Johnny Knoxville desperately wants to be a movie star. After trying and failing in Big Trouble and Walking Tall, he now stars in The Ringer, another doomed goofball comedy that—released the same weekend as Munich and The New World—feels almost like a disabled child swept under the hubbub of proud Oscar hopefuls. It’s fitting, too, given that the movie tackles “special” people as its subject matter. Steve’s (Knoxville) landscaper Stavi (Luis Avalos) loses his fingers to a lawnmower with no health coverage to speak of, and in order to raise the fees necessary for the reattachment surgery, Steve reluctantly agrees to his Uncle Gary’s (Brian Cox) plan to enter the Special Olympics as a fraudulent contestant and bet on an easy win. Since this may be the first major studio movie to so candidly make fun of mentally disabled persons, it’s a crushing disappointment that The Ringer still manages to come off so tame and worn out. Knoxville plays a good conscience, and instead of knocking down other contestants, he gains their help after revealing the truth. At this point the Down Syndrome punchlines end and the movie becomes a humdrum underdog sports picture with an obligatory romantic subplot, between Steve and Olympics volunteer Lynn (Katherine Heigl), thrown into the mix; it’s Rudy and I Am Sam combined with a cheating-fiancée subplot pulled straight from The Wedding Singer. Knoxville, just bearable in other roles, gives his most awkward performance here as an almost-braindead clerical worker for whom, as his uncle says, the Special Olympics aren’t much of a stretch. He chokes on his words and uses shy, under-the-eyelids gestures to feign compassion. As a comedy, The Ringer simply isn’t generous; a caricature of Mike Tyson, like all the other jokes, feels distractingly old, and the timing is consistently off. Do yourself a favor and rent a very campy Radio instead.
- Fox Searchlight Pictures
- 100 min
- Barry W. Blaustein
- Ricky Blitt
- Johnny Knoxville, Brian Cox, Katherine Heigl, Jed Rees, Bill Chott, John Taylor, Zen Gesner, Leonard Earl Howze, Geoffrey Arend, Luis Avalos
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