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Wringing Comedy Out of Disability

"The Ringer" manages to be both tasteless and tasteful at the same time.

At first glance, to the uninformed, “The Ringer” might look like it’s a movie that makes fun of those who are mentally challenged. But it’s far from that, and most of the jokes are on the un-“challenged” characters -- and some of those are played by the Special Olympians on them, especially star Johnny Knoxville.

Knoxville is the main character in this familiarly plotted comedy, who needs a large sum of money to help out a man who’s lost three fingers in a gardening accident -- a long story. … So he tries to fake a mental disability to compete in the Special Olympics, where supposedly his real advantage would help him win and collect the money he needs through his uncle’s betting on the event.

But plot doesn’t matter that much here. The fun of this movie is all in its attitude and the performances. The fun is also in moments like Knoxville almost being recognized by a high school classmate, blowing his cover, and that classmate recognizing Knoxville’s acting “special” as just the same as things he did in high school.

When the Special Olympians are onscreen, they get to put down Knoxville and later put him through the wringer in training for the competition. In fact, it seems like they get the best and funniest lines in the movie. So whatever other criticisms one could make of “The Ringer” -- like the contrived plot -- it does have a funny heart to it.




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