The Ringer

The Ringer

****1/2

Reviewed by: Kotleta

The PC police might avoid this because it's a comedy about the guy from Jackass pretending to be retarded to rig the Special Olympics. But refusing to laugh at people just because they're disabled is a form of bigotry so don't let fear of being thought insensitive put you off.

It's impossible to root for someone engaged in such an immoral (and just plain WRONG) act unless they have a damn good reason, so Steve (Knoxville) is set up as a nice guy early on when he pays toilet-cleaner single-father Stavi out of his own pocket rather than make him cry with the words, "You're fired". When his new employee loses a few fingers in an entirely foreseeable lawnmower accident, Steve has to find $28,000 for the doctor's bill fast or Stavi's hand will never be whole again. At the persuasion of dodgy Uncle Gary (Brian Cox at his most endearingly sleazy), who has money problems of his own, Steve overcomes his better judgement and agrees to become 'Jeffy'. Betting on a non-disabled non-athlete to beat the Special Olympics champion is guaranteed easy money. Right?

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Even though everyone else is taken in by his lazy Rainman act ("Jeffy like apples. I can count to potato!"), Steve's fellow athletes have him pegged as a faker early on and aren't above using him for their own means. Despite what you'd think from all those 'inspirational' daytime tv movies (no, I don't have a life), disability doesn't inherently elevate people to sainthood, and they've all had enough of Jimmy the champion's arrogant bling bling attitude. Mental agility doesn't help Steve run any faster or jump any higher and the deception is further complicated when he falls for the beautiful and idealistic Lynn (Katherine Heigl), a volunteer at the games. But will Lynn love Jeffy the way that Steve loves her? And couldn't it get her arrested if she did?

Executive producers Mr and Mr Farrelly have a proven track record in making the tasteless palatable, and their input is apparent here in the underlying sweetness that permeates.

A likeable cast seamlessly mixes professional actors and Special Olympics veterans. It's impossible to work out which is which, as the performances evidence actual research rather than caricature mockery. It's affectionate and good-natured and, let's face it, a bit soppy and predictable. But maybe if it wasn't, I would have felt guilty for laughing myself sick.

Reviewed on: 24 Mar 2006
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Nice guy pretends to be mentally handicapped so he can win Special Olympics.
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