The Ringer
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir Barry W Blaustein
scr Ricky Blitt
with Johnny Knoxville, Brian Cox, Katherine Heigl, Leonard Flowers, Jed Rees, Bill Chott, Edward Barbanell, Leonard Earl Howze, Geoffrey Arend, John Taylor, Luis Avalos, Zen Gesner
release US 23.Dec.05,
UK 24.Mar.06
05/US Fox 1h34

Jeffy likes Lynn: Knoxville and Heigl

knoxville cox heigl

Special Olympics website

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The Ringer The premise for this Farrelly-produced comedy is so politically incorrect that you're ready to be offended to the core. But what emerges is one of the funniest (and, strangely, most important) comedies of the year.

Steve Barker (Knoxville) is wracked with guilt and he needs of a lot of cash. His slimy Uncle Gary (Cox) has an appalling idea: "Let's fix the Special Olympics!" Willing to do anything to set things right, Steve becomes the mentally challenged "Jeffy" to beat the arrogant champion Jimmy (Flowers), then promptly falls for a sexy volunteer (Heigl). The other competitors rumble him immediately, then conspire to use him themselves to knock Jimmy off his throne. It's just so wrong!

Fortunately the Special Olympics themselves recognised the way the screenwriter cleverly addresses a very touchy subject. They backed the film, which raises funds for their cause. The script draws its humour unapologetically from the characters, while keeping on firm ground, never lapsing into parody. This feat of writing, directing and acting is something to behold, because it gets the balance exactly right.

Knoxville gives an amazingly risky performance--how many actors would have dared to do this? He goes for broke, and the result is hilariously silly, sharply knowing, outrageously physical and surprisingly sweet. He never lets the character descend into slapstick, and somehow manages to add a level of dignity to the entire cast that takes us by surprise, even though it's the whole point of the film.

All of the performances are terrific, from Cox's smarmy jerk to Flowers' cocky jock. And Jeffy's crew (Rees, Chott, Barbanell, Howze, Arend, Taylor) is so wonderfully engaging that we can't help but love them and laugh at their antics. These aren't stereotypes--they're smart, superbly written and acted characters. Against this, the luminous Heigl doesn't have a chance.

This is a bright, witty film, piling on black comedy and silly, absurd humour that's never actually stupid. It's also a finely gauged statement about how political correctness actually undermines dignity by not letting society integrate and interact properly. And honestly, besides the fact that its hysterically good fun, it should be mandatory viewing.

cert 12 themes, language, vulgarity 15.Feb.06

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... The Ringer Mary LaFrance, Hartford CT: 5/5 "I agree completely! It is a GREAT movie with a positive message. I am so happy to see a critic who see that! Thank you!" (13.Apr.06)
2006 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall