The Ringer (2005) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

 "That guy is the Deion Sanders of retards."

I have to admit I approached this one with some trepidation.

To start with, two words: Johnny Knoxville. How many great projects in history feature someone named after a city? Troy Donahue, Paris Hilton, Lowell Weicker, Orlando Bloom. Where are the great achievements from that group? I know what you're thinking. "But Knoxville wasn't named after a city. Knoxville is his LAST name. He should correctly be compared to Michael York and Joaquin Phoenix!"  Wrong. His real name is Phil Clapp. He named himself after a city. I suppose he changed it because being named after a city beats the hell out of being named after a venereal disease. The city group has its problems, but there are absolutely no memorable human achievements produced by a person named after an STD, possibly excepting Buster Crabbe.

Then there were the tepid reviews.

Next problem: the Farrelly brothers. They started off their careers by re-establishing lowbrow comedy as an art form. Dumb and Dumber, There's Something About Mary, and Kingpin are mini-masterpieces within their genre, the best lowbrow comedies since the heyday of Mel Brooks. That was in the 90s. Lately the Farrellys are slumping. Their first three projects remain their best three:

  1. (7.10) - There's Something About Mary (1998)
  2. (6.70) - Dumb & Dumber (1994)
  3. (6.50) - Kingpin (1996)
  4. (6.50) - Fever Pitch (2005)
  5. (6.10) - Stuck On You (2003)
  6. (6.10) - Osmosis Jones (2001)
  7. (6.00) - Me, Myself & Irene (2000)
  8. (6.00) - Shallow Hal (2001)

The Farrellys didn't write or direct The Ringer, but they were the executive producers, and it certainly bears their imprimatur, and follows their formula. It's a comedy about a guy who decides to compete in the Special Olympics despite the fact that he has no handicaps of any kind other than being played by Johnny Knoxville. Blah-blah. Disrespectful humor. Blah-blah. Gently pushing the edge. Blah-blah. Lessons learned and sentimental wrap-up.

It does indeed follow that formula, but it's a film with a lot of heart. The Special Olympics committee and real Special Olympians worked closely with the writers and the director to create a film which would poke fun at the Special Olympians in a way that would demonstrate that they are human enough to be poked fun at, as opposed to wretched pitiable creatures to be pitied and condescended to. Of course the script can't test the very outside of the envelope of bad taste, but it does get out there about half way by milking some humor from the mistaken perceptions of outsiders about the Olympians and their games, notably through the character played by Brian Cox. Cox plays Knoxville's uncle, a hopelessly ignorant and completely sleazy gambling addict who conceives of the plan to fix the events. The uncle is totally politically incorrect, and completely unaware of it, which had me laughing out loud several times. In one particularly silly scene, he was in the crowd taunting the competitors, like a baseball fan ragging on Barry Bonds or John Rocker, much to the shock of the rest of the crowd. When the uncle is trying to teach Knoxville how to act "challenged," he gives him a crash course - which includes watching Forrest Gump, I Am Sam, and the films of Chevy Chase. (See - another guy named after a city.)

Anyway, I thought it was a very fine effort. It isn't crazy, non-stop hilarity like There's Something About Mary, but it is funny, and best of all to someone like me who watches so many movies and feels that they all seem to be contrived and formulaic and the same old shit, The Ringer is absolutely unique and comes straight from the heart. That's enough to forgive its flaws.

SIDEBAR: The amazing Brian Cox.

This guy is a serious workaholic. He has 45 IMDb credits since the year 2000. Yes, I know that Eric Roberts has 73 in the same period of time, but many of those are very small roles and many more are in very bad projects.

In projects rated 6.0 or higher, Cox beats Roberts 24-3. In projects rated 7.0 or higher, Cox pitches a 15-0 shutout. In other words, he's not only in a ton of movies, but a ton of good movies, and in just about every type of film imaginable: lowbrow comedies, sophisticated comedies, action films, comic book adaptations, costumers, you name it.

Here's the list of projects rated 6.0 or higher since 2000.

  1. (8.14) - Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson (2004)
  2. (7.90) - X2 (2003)
  3. (7.90) - Match Point (2005)
  4. (7.80) - Adaptation. (2002)
  5. (7.80) - 25th Hour (2002)
  6. (7.70) - The Trials of Henry Kissinger (2002)
  7. (7.63) - Longitude (2000) (TV)
  8. (7.62) - Lost: The Journey (2005) (TV)
  9. (7.40) - The Bourne Supremacy (2004)
  10. (7.40) - The Bourne Identity (2002)
  11. (7.30) - The Ring (2002)
  12. (7.29) - L.I.E. (2001)
  13. (7.28) - Nuremberg (2000) (TV)
  14. (7.00) - Troy (2004)
  15. (7.00) - The Rookie (2002)
  16. (6.84) - Smallpox 2002: Silent Weapon (2002) (TV)
  17. (6.79) - Bug (2002)
  18. (6.60) - Red Eye (2005)
  19. (6.51) - The Reckoning (2003)
  20. (6.40) - Super Troopers (2001)
  21. (6.34) - A Shot at Glory (2000)
  22. (6.25) - Saltwater (2000)
  23. (6.12) - The Affair of the Necklace (2001)
  24. (6.03) - Strictly Sinatra (2001)

Do you want to impress the guys at your local watering hole with your movie knowledge? I wonder how many of them know who first played Dr. Hannibal Lecter in a movie. The answer? That's his picture just above: the redoubtable Scot, Brian Cox.



  • Commentary by director Barry W. Blaustein, screenwriter Ricky Blitt, producer Peter Farrelly, and actors Johnny Knoxville, Edward Barbanell and John Taylor
  • 16 deleted scenes
  • "Let the Games Begin - A Look at The Ringer" featurette
  • Special Olympics featurette
  • A message from Special Olympics Chairman Tim Shriver
  • Features both widescreen and full screen versions on the same disc



The Critics Vote ...

  • Super-panel consensus out of four stars: two and a half   stars. Roger Ebert 3/4, BBC 2/5.

The People Vote ...

  • Box Office Mojo. It grossed $35 million in distribution to about 1800 theaters. The word of mouth was pretty decent. It actually did better in Week 2 than Week 1, which caused it to hold most of its screens for two more weeks after that, and the week 3 and 4 drops were only in the thirty range.
The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

Our own guideline:

  • A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre.
  • B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. In order to rate at least a B-, a film should be both a critical and commercial success. Exceptions: (1) We will occasionally rate a film B- with good popular acceptance and bad reviews, if we believe the critics have severely underrated a film. (2) We may also assign a B- or better to a well-reviewed film which did not do well at the box office if we feel that the fault lay in the marketing of the film, and that the film might have been a hit if people had known about it. (Like, for example, The Waterdance.)
  • C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by people who enjoy this kind of movie. If this is your kind of movie, a C+ and an A are indistinguishable to you.
  • C means it is competent, but uninspired genre fare. People who like this kind of movie will think it satisfactory. Others probably will not.
  • C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie, but genre addicts find it watchable. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film, but films with this rating should be approached with caution by mainstream audiences, who may find them incompetent or repulsive or both. If this is NOT your kind of movie, a C- and an E are indistinguishable to you.
  • D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-. Films rated below C- generally have both bad reviews and poor popular acceptance.
  • E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre.
  • F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.


Based on this description, this film is a C. It's not sheer genius, but it is a solid and original comedy. I surprised myself by liking it.

Return to the Movie House home page