The Ringer (2005)

the-ringer-2005--00I liked “The Ringer.” I liked it a lot. Because, in spite of the jack ass from “Jackass” starring, and the potential for a complete cheapening of the Special Olympics, every opportunity this film had to spit in our faces, it didn’t. The controversy behind this was pointless. Because, in spite of the previews, “The Ringer” really isn’t a cheap comedy. The mentally disabled pictured here are not comedy props for fart jokes, and they’re not caricatures, or objects to laugh at. I just didn’t understand the controversy behind “The Ringer.” Maybe it was bad press for the sake of hype, or perhaps just more morons making a fuss over a film they haven’t seen just yet, but when I was finished, I didn’t see the big deal. It’s not just some shitty comedy from Tom Green, and it didn’t warrant any sort of hype in the end.

And Blitt, even in surprising with a film that’s not what the audience will expect, provides us with the same amount of predictability you expect from every modern comedy. Director Blaustein and writer Blitt paint these mentally disabled individuals as actual people with personalities that do not revolve around their disabilities. Some are computer wiz’s, some are experts in movie trivia, and many are loyal to one another. In spite of my pre-conceived notions with it, “The Ringer” sheds a positive light on the folks in the Special Olympics, and that’s what makes it worth watching. That and the fact that it’s an often surprisingly entertaining bit of comedy that’s never as low brow as you’d expect.

Steve, in an attempt to help out a janitor whose fingers were just cut off, decides to pretend to be mentally disabled, join the special Olympics, and use the prize money to re-attach the fingers, but in mission, he finds a lot more. What’s most interesting and appealing about “The Ringer” is the interplay between Knoxville’s character and the people within the Special Olympics he finds a connection with. Blaustein plays their relationship with comedy that makes them nothing more than buddies protecting one another. Once Steve, masquerading as mentally disabled Jeffy Dahmer, with the help of his con man uncle (Brian Cox), his pre-conceived notions turns into what he realizes are stereotypes. Knoxville’s performance is shockingly good as this loser with the best of intentions from beginning to end, and he’s never as slimy as the audience thinks he is.

Steve’s entrance into the competition and his friendship with the contestants ends up very engaging, especially with Katherine Heigl in a memorable supporting performance. What could have been another throwaway love interest really expands into a likable character whose story of her involvement with the mentally disabled is very wrenching. “The Ringer” hits all the right notes in comedy, light down to Earth drama, and a resulting tasteful comedy that’s worth watching. Even if you’re not a fan of Knoxville. I enjoyed “The Ringer.” Now I can officially throw myself down the stairs. No one is as shocked I enjoyed it as much as I am, but “The Ringer” is not some shitty cheap comedy, it’s a hilarious tasteful dramedy about a man learning that the mentally disabled are in fact human, and in the process, the audiences learns too.