An unexpected "Ringer"


Jan. 3, 2006, midnight | By Justin Vlasits | 15 years ago

Politically incorrect film strikes a sentimental chord


The foundation of "The Ringer" was almost enough to encourage the audience to leave after the previews. But between the blatant stereotyping and clichéd love story, the Farrelly brothers manage to pull off yet another politically incorrect premise and make it a sentimental sensation. While the film generally lacks the crass, South Park-esque humor that one expects from the notorious producers of "Shallow Hal" and "Stuck on You," it is impossible not to feel awe and admiration for the Special Olympians working side-by-side with professional actors.

The bad taste begins in the first scenes of the movie, when Steve Barker (Johnny Knoxville) gets convinced by his Uncle Gary (Brian Cox) that the only way to help pay for his friend's reconstructive surgery is to impersonate a mentally-challenged athlete using acting skills from his high school drama days to win in the Special Olympics.

The movie, although not as funny as advertised, brings attention to prejudices against the mentally ill, particularly through Uncle Gary, who believes that Steve can beat the "tards" because he is mentally superior, even though Steve has not trained seriously since running track in high school. Even more poignant is the character of Peter (Stephen Prince), the fiancé of a volunteer at the Olympics, who feels superior to Special Olympians and puts them down but then feigns interest in the Special Olympics to hit on a waitress.

Other noteworthy performances came from two real Special Olympians, Leonard Flowers, the cocky Terrell Owens of the mentally challenged, and Edward Barbanell, a real Down Syndrome patient and competitor in the Special Olympics for over 15 years, playing Billy, Steve's roommate during the games. Their performances humanized the story and helped to prove that they could do things that many thought were unattainable, from small things like understanding a joke to life goals such as getting and maintaining a job.

There are not enough crude laughs for a minute long promo, but "The Ringer" takes a well-intentioned stab at the harsh prejudices against the Special Olympians and applauds them as both athletes and human beings.

"The Ringer" (94 minutes) is rated PG-13 for crude and sexual humor, language and some drug references.




Justin Vlasits. Justin Vlasits is a CAP senior who enjoys It's Academic, baseball, guitar and frisbee in addition to watching weird movies and contemplating the meaning of life. Justin is also a revolutionary member of SGR and will someday overthrow oppressive capitalism all over the world. More »

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