The Ringer (Fox Searchlight, PG-13)

The Ringer is about as dumb, generic, big-studio, and star-laden as films get

Usually when I have to review a film as bad as the Farrelly Brothers (There’s Something About Mary)–produced, Barry Blaustein (Beyond the Mat)–directed The Ringer, I spend the entire word count simply pointing out the myriad ways in which the film fails. Strangely enough, though, with regard to The Ringer, there is far more to talk about than just its failings in the regular bad script, bad acting, unfunny kinds of ways.

If you haven’t seen the film’s trailer (which is unlikely, seeing as how they’ve been showing for nearly a year now; this one’s been sitting on the shelf at Fox for quite some time), The Ringer stars Jackass’ Johnny Knoxville as Steve Barker, a nice guy who is indirectly responsible for one of his friends getting his fingers chopped off. Needing to remedy the situation, Steve decides the only way to do that is to win enough money to get his friend’s fingers reattached…by competing in the Special Olympics. While in his retarded athlete persona, Steve goes by the name Jeffy Dahmor, and if you don’t think that’s funny, well, there isn’t much hope that you’ll find this movie funny.

Trailers and commercials aside, if you’ve heard anything about The Ringer, it is that the filmmakers seem to be trying to sue Trey Parker and Matt Stone as a publicity stunt (why else would they wait until right before the movie is released to do it?) for ripping off their plot for an episode of South Park that aired a while back. No matter who had the idea first, it isn’t that original. Not to knock the considerable talents of Parker and Stone, but what half-witted comedy writer hasn’t had the idea to make their main character act retarded?

There are two easily missable details about The Ringer that seal its fate. First of all, it is rated PG-13. Granted, humor-deficient 12-year-olds will be able to see it and maybe think it is funny, but if you’re semi-grown and have a hankering for inappropriate humor, that PG-13 should tell you that you’re not going to find it here. Secondly, the Special Olympics actually approved of the finished film, which may seem noble of the filmmakers on the surface—as I said before, they are an easy target for bad comedy writers, so it’s nice that the filmmakers respect them as an organization enough to depict them in an agreeable fashion. But still, a Farrelly-produced, Knoxville-starring film about the Special Olympics that is actually approved by the organizers of the Special Olympics is sort of like Michael Moore making a documentary about George Bush and Bush approving it.

My final quibble with the film is that Fox Searchlight released it. What the hell? Fox Searchlight is the banner that Fox releases all of their foreign, arthouse, or otherwise specialty films under, and The Ringer is about as dumb, generic, big-studio, star-laden, etc., as films get.

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