Ringer
More evidence Humanity is on the brink of destruction.

Theatrical Release Date: 12/23/2005
Directors: Barry W. Blaustein
Cast: Johnny Knoxville, Brian Cox, Katherine Heigl

When I first saw the trailer for “The Ringer” in what seems like almost a year ago, I couldn’t believe anyone was going to cross this line. That someone would stoop to making a movie about pretending to be mentally challenged and cheat the Special Olympics – Well … I was dumbfounded.

A bit of background for those of you who don’t know me too well. I worked two Special Olympics World Games, one summer and one winter. I’ve met and admired a number of the athletes, coaches and parents. The Special Olympics program is amazing, and it is still the job that has given me the biggest sense of pride. It isn’t about winning, like the regular Olympics (which I’ve also worked).

Everyone at the Special Olympics is there to compete and have fun with their peers. It’s one of the very few things that allow me to think humanity has any chance.

Of course, humanity is something that Peter and Bobby Farrelly have been trying to upstage for over a decade. While I have loved some of their films, especially “Dumb and Dumber”, I have also absolutely cringed at just the idea of some of their other films. While “Shallow Hal” was actually an okay movie, others like “Stuck on You”, and now, “The Ringer” are just deplorable.

At this point, some of those who know me are saying “Hank, you’re full of it. You have no soul and your humor is well beyond the scope of the Farrelly brothers.” Of course, that is true, but I’m not ever going to create something, with the intent to mass market and capitalize, about truly degrading and denigrating any group of people. My tasteless humor is reserved for private conversations and drunk escapades.

Back to “The Ringer”, I was also surprised to see not only the level of involvement of the Special Olympics, but their endorsement of the film. They are 100% behind the film and feel it doesn’t poke fun at the athletes.

That’s only partially true. I will capitulate that the last half of the film is more about praising the athletes than mocking them. But for the first 45 minutes or so, what little humor there is gets aimed right at mentally challenged individuals. I had a really tough time checking myself, as some of the jokes are the kind I might make to friends, but each time I do, I know I’m stepping another rung closer to the bottom on that ladder to Hell.

Director Barry W. Blaustein was chosen to helm this ship of fools and in looking at his previous experience, he’s had one great script in “Coming to America” and was a writer for “Saturday Night Live” in its inception. But he is also responsible for the horrific cinematic take of “The Honeymoons” and the less than inspired “The Nutty Professor”. And in 1999 he undertook the documentary “Beyond the Mat”, so he’s got that going for him; and I’m not sure whether that’s a plus or minus. You decide.

However, Blaustein only molded this lack of morality tale, the man behind the words is Ricky Blitt, who is a writer for the hilarious and boundary crossing “Family Guy”. I love that show but at least there isn’t the bold lie about being fair to real people in the cartoon.

In “The Ringer”, there are real people on display. Aside from the three leads (Johnny Knoxville, Brian Cox and Katherine Heigl) the majority of the actors are real mentally challenged individuals. I know why Knoxville did it, and I am somewhat heartened to see that he developed a friendship with some of the real athletes. Still, this film should have been tossed before pre-production got going.

That isn’t to say this film is the worst thing since sliced bread (I prefer to tear). Last year’s “The Dukes Of Hazzard” was much dumber than this film.

Just let that statement sink it. … Okay? Good.

The last half of “The Ringer” is much more generous to the Special Olympics community and athletes. Heck, the last half is almost sweet. Though the writer clearly just skipped trying to figure out how to come up with a happy ending and just deus ex machina’d the audience to a finale.

I would credit some of the non-challenged actors playing mentally challenge athletes except that I think they’re farther down that ladder to the bottom than even I am. Instead, I would much rather credit the real deal and say that Edward Barbanell, John Taylor and Leonard Flowers did a marvelous job. (And shame on you IMDb for not listing Taylor or Flowers. I had to get their names from the film’s website.)

If you have even less of a soul than I do, go ahead and see this film. Then take me off your phone list and jump off a bridge.

I guess there is one good thing this film has brought about. Since it didn’t really make any money, most people saw through the charade and avoided needing to spend extra time praying to their respective God(s) for salvation. That bolsters my seemingly vain attempt at thinking we’re not at the precipice of a moral societal collapse.

I will admit that I had a better feeling about this film upon exiting the theater than I’m having writing this review. Perhaps that’s because the last half is serviceable, or maybe it’s because I’m only now really seeing how deplorable this idea was. I was going to give this a 2 out of 5, but in thinking better of it, “The Ringer” gets a 1 out of 5.

It might have been deserving of a bag of hammers but I’m giving the actual Special Olympians and their community of friends, family and coaches a point for their performances. In watching some of the background action, I was reminded of the true spirit of the games and how wonderful that was, which I guess is worth the point.

But please remember one thing: Avoid this film.

If you feel yourself gravitating towards it, see if you can volunteer or work for your local Special Olympics team. This ladder to Hell is getting crowded.