The Ringer

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The Ringer
Cast: Johnny Knoxville, Brian Cox, Katherine Heigl
Studio: Fox
Rating: 4.5/10

CORPORATE LINE: Steve Barker (JOHNNY KNOXVILLE) is a nice guy stuck in a mundane desk job when a twist of fate turns his life – and his definition of success – utterly upside down. When Steve works up the courage to ask his boss for a promotion, his wish is surprisingly granted, with one condition: Steve must first fire Stavi (LUIS AVALOS), the long-time janitor at the company. To soften the blow, Steve offers to employ the distraught janitor himself, a decision that quickly backfires when a lawn-care accident lands Stavi in the hospital missing several fingers not to mention medical insurance.

Desperate for the cash to save Stavi’s digits, Steve enlists the help of his smarmy uncle Gary (BRIAN COX), who’s worried about his own skyrocketing gambling debts. In typical fashion, Gary comes up with an unthinkable, contemptible, lower-than-low scheme just crazy enough to seem doable: former track star Steve will compete in the upcoming Special Olympics as a “ringer,” handily defeating the greatest champion of all time, six-time Gold Medal pentathlete Jimmy (LEONARD FLOWERS), whom Gary will bet against.

Racked with remorse over Stavi, Steve begrudgingly goes along with the scandalous plan and transforms himself into “Jeffy,” his new alter-ego. But succeeding at being intellectually challenged turns out to be a far greater challenge than Steve ever imagined. From convincing Special Olympics volunteer Lynn Sheridan (KATHERINE HEIGL), with whom Steve is smitten; to trying to win the friendship of his feisty fellow competitors, Steve is stumped, not to mention not nearly good enough to win any of his events.

To make matters worse, Steve’s co-competitors soon get wise to his scam. But instead of turning against him they decide to join him and train Steve as a competitor themselves, hoping he can topple the arrogant Jimmy from the podium. With a training regimen unlike anything ever seen in sports before, Steve prepares to go for the Gold for his new friends . . . and, in the process, stumbles at long last upon his personal best.

THE GOOD: The mentally and physically handicapped characters outperform the “normal” actors, particularly John Knoxville, throughout much of the film.

THE BAD: The Ringer tries too hard to get viewers to bond all the mush business of hugs and tenderness. Knoxville is a terrible actor. He is consistently bad and we can only pray that this is the end of his acting career.

FRANKLY: As much as The Ringer wants to open up the world of the handicapped by dismissing stereotypes it doesn’t work. Instead it associates this world with a fluff-fest. Even though If you go in only expecting a laugh and nothing more you will get what you came for—and nothing more.

+ Charlie Craine

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