Steve Barker (Johnny Knoxville) is stuck in a low level job. He gets up the courage to ask for more responsibility and his boss tells him he has to fire a janitor. Long unfunny story short, Steve has to come up with a lot of money to help the janitor, who has now become his responsibility. He calls his shifty uncle, Gary (Brian Cox) and asks him to repay a loan. The uncle also needs money and comes up with an idea; Steve will play an athlete in the Special Olympics, fixing the sports competition. Desperate, Steve goes along with the idea.
"The Ringer", produced by the Farrelly Brothers, is a huge disappointment. Poor production quality and zero laughs combine to create a comedy no one will remember in a couple of months.
In many of the previous comedies by the Farrelly Brothers, both films they have directed and films they have produced, there are usually at least one or two characters who are handicapped in some way. I have heard that someone in their family is handicapped and this is their way of helping to raise awareness for people with handicaps, to let the public know they can make a normal contribution to society. Strangely, in their films, the person in question is never made fun of, or the butt of jokes, and they are part of the story. In "There's Something About Mary", Ben Stiller has a memorable encounter with Cameron Diaz's brother. So, it would seem a natural fit they are involved with a comedy about fixing the Special Olympics.
And, from what I understand, the Special Olympics gave their full support to the film. Their logos are all over the place, the athletes are played by real athletes, and so forth.
Yet, the film is so spectacularly dull, so unfunny, it almost makes you wonder if the film was intended to be one of those after school specials they used to make. I thought that for a moment until I remembered that Johnny Knoxville is playing Steve, or Jeffie, as he becomes known in the Special Olympics community. This film should have some outrageous laughs. At least one. Right? Right? Tell me I'm right.
I think the problem is that all of the athletes are treated with almost reverence. The only person who comes close to being a funny "Farrelly Brothers-esque" type character is Lenny, the Michael Jordan of the Special Olympics. Yet, his character goes no where. There is lots, and lots, and lots of build up for his character, but it never pays off. He is the best athlete in the Olympics, and naturally, Steve becomes his biggest competition. Because Steve is not handicapped in any way and won some track competitions in high school. Lenny finally has some real competition. What is the joke about Lenny? He is egotistical? Not good enough. I kept waiting for them to reveal that Lenny was also a non-handicapped guy playing in the Special Olympics. But that never happened.
Johnny Knoxville doesn't seem to have a lot to work with. The film is rated `PG-13' for "crude and sexual humor, language and some drug references". Wow, I must have missed those bits, it might have helped to liven up the film. Really, I thought the film was `PG', because there is a glaring lack of comedy anyone might mistake as "Johnny Knoxville" or "Farrelly Brothers"- type behavior. Knoxville seems to be playing Steve as a real guy, a character in a drama and the role just comes off as flat. Boring. Uninspired. When his character, trying to pass as mentally challenged "Jeffie" becomes attracted to Lynn (Kathryn Heigl), the film tries to become a much more conventional romantic comedy. It doesn't succeed on that front either. How will Steve confess the truth about "Jeffie"? Will their relationship stand the test? Yawn.
There is a brief hint at this humor during a montage. Jeffie's new friends, the other athletes, decide they will help him train, because they want him to beat Lenny, who they can't stand. As they train, quick glimpses of the guys acting up, training, getting to know one another are threaded together. But these clips are very brief. And aren't funny.
Throughout, "Ringer" appears very amateurish. Everything is lit with harsh light and appears to have been made by student filmmakers. Of course, the location doesn't help. Some nondescript college campus provides no interesting visual details. This, and the fact that the film has a slightly grainy, high school film project look, give the film a cheap appearance. How much money did they spend on this project exactly?
The film is too slow, too safe and too unfunny to capture anyone's attention or interest.