"The Ringer" is quite an enigma in and of itself. It manages to be the least funny movie with arguably one of the more humorous plots to come along in quite some time.
With a premise surrounding a young man pretending to be mentally challenged to fix the Special Olympics, it sounded mildly promising. Anyone who has seen the episode of "South Park" where Cartman does the exact same thing with hilarious results will tell you that "The Ringer" had potential. But somewhere along the way director Barry Blaustein ("The Honeymooners") managed to mangle a perfectly good idea and create one of the least funny comedies of the year.
It's surprisingly difficult to pinpoint the source of the tremendous amount of "suck" that exists within "The Ringer," but there are multiple possibilities. A decent guess would be that the crew worried too much about making the film heartwarming and completely forgot about adding any funny bits to the movie. There are less than a handful of laughable jokes in "The Ringer," but almost all of them stem from someone poking fun at one of the many mentally challenged members of the cast. While this more than amused the few dozen pre-teens who were watching the film, it seems rather tasteless in the long run.
Another possibility is that Barry Blaustein felt pressure from the Special Olympics in making the film. When someone is faced with the task of getting the Special Olympics to sign off on a movie that seems to be designed to poke fun of the Special Olympics, things are bound to fall apart at some point. And when that same director's resume includes work on cinematic masterpieces like "The Honeymooners" and "Beyond the Mat," things look even worse.
Perhaps it's just that Johnny Knoxville ("The Dukes of Hazzard") isn't funny. The guy has done almost nothing notable since his work on "Jackass," and even then he wasn't exactly the star of the show.
But seeing as "The Ringer" is a bit of an enigma, it manages to present a completely unexpected film — one devoid of any humor and heavy on heartwarming scenes. It succeeds in painting a wonderful image of both the Special Olympics and its competitors, but it's hard to deny that the majority of people seeing this film might not be looking for that. Maybe it's a bit cynical, but teenagers aren't typically the most open-minded, caring people. For them, this film will come off as one extended cock-tease, never giving them the very thing trailers made them think they'd be getting.
It's pretty difficult to critique a movie that represents something that could be so easily mocked in such a positive light. On one hand, "The Ringer" deserves accolades for the maturity with which it presents the material and could easily make even the most judgmental person somewhat sympathetic to the courage of the Olympians — maybe it could be the first step toward removing the "r"-word from the American vocabulary. On the other hand, a movie that advertises itself as a comedy (hell, it's produced by the Farrelly Brothers) and fails to deliver any laughs can't be all that good — can it?
So while everyone involved with this project deserves kudos for making a completely inoffensive film about someone fixing the Special Olympics, at the same time they deserve a slap in the face for dropping the ball in all other aspects of the film. Had they maybe spent a little more time working on the supposed jokes of the script and a little less time trying to please anyone and everyone who could possibly be offended in any way, maybe it'd be somewhat enjoyable.
As it stands, "The Ringer" is the comedy that fails to amuse and dumps heaps upon heaps of cheesy fluff on top of everything in hopes that it'll get by simply because it delivers a nice message. When the funniest part of the film is when Knoxville watches a brief clip of "Family Guy," that says something about its quality — and it's not a good something.
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars