Desperate for cash to pay medical bills for a friend (Luis Avalos) and to pay off his sleazebag uncle Gary's (Brian Cox) large gambling debts, Steve Barker (Johnny Knoxville) reluctantly agrees to enter the Special Olympics for disabled, pretending to have intellectual disabilities. He is taken under the wing of attractive carer, Lynn (Katherine Heigl); however, his fellow athletes immediately spot Steve as a fraud. They join forces to help the ringer hoping he will beat the snooty reigning champion, Jimmy (Leonard Flowers) - against whom Uncle Gary plans to wager a decent sum. They train Steve hard, while he struggles with his conscience and with his sincere feelings for Lynn. Then he sees that he can lose more than he can gain - but it may be too late.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
I'd like to have seen this idea developed and made into a film by someone like, say, Lars von Trier, who doesn't have a scared cinematic bone in his body. It's a bold idea, taking mental handicap as a backdrop for a story about a man's growing up, but this film chickens out as soon as it begins. Nothing is real, nothing is at risk. The comedy is at times embarrassing, and the film becomes just another schmalz driven vehicle, where laughs pave the way to a minimalist redemption, covered over with romantic plaster.
Johnny Knoxville does his best under questionable direction, which follows the formulaic Hollywood rules and turns fibre into plastic. The best thing in the film is Katherine Heigl as the specialist carer who becomes the romantic interest; her sweet naturalness is endearing and warm.
The support cast, most of whom are genuinely disabled, provide textured performances, but such is the nature of the film that it adds nothing to its veracity and honesty. The title, by the way, means The Ring-in (for Australians).
As for the Special Olympics, as the big event is called, it's nothing of the sort, and the sporting events are poorly staged, reducing what little tension there is to a flicker.
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RINGER, THE (M)
CAST: Johnny Knoxville, Luis Avalos, Leonard Flowers, Katherine Heigl, Brian Cox
PRODUCER: John L. Jacobs, Bradley Thomas
DIRECTOR: Barry W. Blaustein
SCRIPT: Ricky Blitt
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Mark Irwin
EDITOR: George Folsey jnr
MUSIC: Mark Mothersbaugh
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Arlan Jay Vetter
RUNNING TIME: 94 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Fox
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: April 27, 2006
VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: 20th Century Fox
VIDEO RELEASE: September 20, 2006