The Ringer

A so-called "normal" man pretends to be developmentally challenged in order to win the Special Olympics. Could this be the most offensive comedy premise ever? Perhaps, but the movie itself is surprisingly sweet and unexpectedly positive. After toiling away for two years at a job he hates, office clerk Steve (Johnny Knoxville) finally receives a promotion,...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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A so-called "normal" man pretends to be developmentally challenged in order to win the Special Olympics. Could this be the most offensive comedy premise ever? Perhaps, but the movie itself is surprisingly sweet and unexpectedly positive. After toiling away for two years at a job he hates, office clerk Steve (Johnny Knoxville) finally receives a promotion, but his first executive task is to fire Stavi (Luis Avalos), the kindly widowed janitor. As a consolation, Steve hires Stavi to mow the lawn at his apartment complex and even offers him health benefits — a perk Steve hasn't quite yet managed to swing when Stavi severs three fingers in the mower. Faced with having to foot the $28,000 medical bill himself, Steve calls in the $1,400 loan he once gave his sleazy Uncle Gary (Brian Cox). Uncle Gary, who already owes his bookie (Al "Train" Dias) a hefty sum, doesn't have the money, but he does have an idea: Help Steve fix the Special Olympics by impersonating a developmentally challenged athlete. What with Steve's experience on the high-school track and field team, not to mention drama club, Steve should have no trouble fooling the officials and beating the six-time champ, Jimmy Washington (Leonard Flowers). After all, Uncle Gary figures, how tough could the competition be? Nice guy that he is, Steve is horrified by the idea but still feeling guilty about Stavi's missing digits and wowed by comely Special Olympics volunteer Lynn Sheridan (Katherine Heigl), Steve reluctantly agrees. So with his brown corduroys hitched up to his waist and belt cinched tight, his hair coiffed into an Ed Grimley pompadour and with a silly grin on his face, Steve becomes "Jeffy Dahmor," a highly functional, mentally challenged Special Olympics athlete. But while he does manage to fool the officials, Steve's fellow competitors are not such easy marks. Not only are they excellent athletes and terrific sportsmen — when one stumbles, the rest help him back up before resuming the race — they're wise enough to spot an impostor when they see one. But even after unmasking "Jeffy" and hearing Stavi's tale of woe, they agree to help Steve beat that irritating corporate shill, Jimmy Washington. It's the supporting characters' combination of smarts and sass, not to mention an honest and positive depiction of the mentally challenged, that turns this potentially crude and heartless comedy into something that the Special Olympics actually endorses, and writer Ricky Blitt even manages to find a nice way out of the corner the setup paints the movie into: While everyone's rooting for Steve, he can't possibly come out the winner in a comedy aimed at demonstrating the strengths of the developmentally challenged. In the end, though, everyone's a winner, and Steve even learns a lesson about the importance of trying when winning seems like such a long shot.

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  • Released: 2005
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Review: A so-called "normal" man pretends to be developmentally challenged in order to win the Special Olympics. Could this be the most offensive comedy premise ever? Perhaps, but the movie itself is surprisingly sweet and unexpectedly positive. After toiling away… (more)

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