It’s not that Barry W. Blaustein’s The Ringer is at all tasteless in its handling of special needs individuals participating in the Special Olympics; it’s that it’s so banal. Another by-the-numbers comic farce, The Ringer expects that having the Special Olympics as a backdrop for the majority of its action and having actual challenged individuals acting and participating in some keys roles will somehow provide the freshness the film needs to stand apart from the crowd. But though those individuals are indeed special and the Olympics in which they participate are a unique backdrop for a movie comedy, at its heart, The Ringer is like every other sports-related comic competition movie with only sporadic laughs and main characters not really exceptional enough to deserve our attention.
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA, Spanish 5.1 DD, French 5.1 DD, Other
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
Run Time: 1 Hr. 34 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-raykeep case
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 06/03/2014
Good-hearted Steve Barker (Johnny Knoxville) finds himself in need of $28,000 to help his gardener Stavi (Luis Avalos) pay for an operation to have his fingers sewn back on. His nefarious Uncle Gary (Brian Cox) who also owes $40,000 to loan sharks comes up with a plan to erase both their money burdens: Steve will feign being a mentally challenged individual named Jeffy and enter the Special Olympics as a competitor with Uncle Gary betting the loan shark that long-time gold medallist Jimmy (Leonard Flowers) can be beaten in the pentathlon. Steve’s impersonation is good enough to fool the Olympic officials and pretty assistant Lynn Sheridan (Katherine Heigl) but not his roommate Billy (Edward Barbanell) or several of the other guys he’s competing against. But they’re tired of Jimmy’s unbridled ego and agree to help Steve defeat Jimmy. Steve, though, begins to have romantic feelings for Lynn and knows his impossible situation: if he admits he’s a fraud, she’ll never speak to him again and he’ll still have that enormous debt. If he keeps up the pretense, he may beat Jimmy, but can he live with his masquerade and somehow get over Lynn?
The Production Rating: 2.5/5
Edward Barbanell’s unimaginative screenplay plugs in all of the tropes of the competition comedy: the seemingly unbeatable opponent, the heavy days of training with slow but steady progress through the five events (covered in a series of montages with Elmer Bernstein’s The Magnificent Seven theme song providing the impetus), and the events themselves which, of course, come down to the final contest to determine the champion with Jimmy leading, Steve/Jeffy five points behind, and Steve’s sweet-natured friend (Jed Rees) a close third. Along the way, there are sequences where Jeffy is in the company of Lynn and sometimes her fiancé, naturally a scumbag who hits on other girls when he’s out of her sight, and some uncomfortable, poorly written matchmaking attempts that Lynn does to pair Jeffy with one of “his own kind.” Throughout, the mix of actual challenged individuals and actors who are playing them convincingly (apart from Knoxville who is by far the weakest of the bunch) helps blur the lines between those differences making them, in the final analysis, unimportant. They’re all just people struggling constantly to get through the day, find a little happiness, and make a difference in the world. It’s sweet and loving and thoroughly predictable (which includes the eventual conclusion of the contest and its aftermath).
Johnny Knoxville is a positive presence on the screen, and his affable, easygoing personality is welcome, but his “Jeffy” is a very weak, unconvincing creation, and the fact that it manages to fool the characters who are not supposed to be mentally challenged says something about the writing, the direction, the acting, or possibly all three. Katherine Heigl hadn’t hit it big on Grey’s Anatomy when this film first appeared, but it’s clear that her radiant smile and sunny screen presence is what launched her into major stardom (at least for a time). Brian Cox milks every one of his scenes for the scumbag charlatan that he is, eternally chomping on a nasty cigar butt and letting his mouth run away from him using every insulting epithet that pops into his head. Leonard Flowers, an actual participant in the Special Olympics back in Texas, handles the burden of his egomaniacal villainy with aplomb. Similarly, Edward Barbanell and John Taylor, both mentally challenged actors, shoulder their acting responsibilities mightily and succeed magnificently. Geoffrey Arend, Bill Chott, Jed Rees, and Leonard Earl all fit snugly into the group of friends working to make Steve the champion.
The film’s 2.35:1 theatrical aspect ratio has been faithfully delivered in a 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Sharpness is outstanding throughout with lots of detail in hair, faces, and clothes. Color is bright and rich but completely controlled and with believable and appealing skin tones. Contrast has been mostly applied with consistency. Black levels are very good if not always as deep as they might have been. The film has been divided into 28 chapters.
Video Rating: 4.5/5 3D Rating: NA
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix is mainly directed toward the front soundstage. Apart from some traces of music that occasionally waft into the rear speakers, the music by Mark Mothersbaugh and the sound effects have decent spread across the fronts but seldom make it into the rear soundstage. Dialogue has been expertly recorded and has been placed in the center channel.
Audio Rating: 3.5/5
Audio Commentary: producer Peter Farrelly, director Barry Blaustein, writer Ricky Blitt, and actors Johnny Knoxville, Edward Barbanell, and John Taylor participate in a lively and full audio commentary. Conversation sometimes strays from the topic of the movie itself, but fans will find their joking around and questioning of one another a fun listen.
Special Features Rating: 3/5
Deleted Scenes (17:00, SD): sixteen scenes may be watched individually or in montage.
Let the Games Begin (7:07, SD): producer Peter Farrelly, director Barry Blaustein, actors Johnny Knoxville, Edward Barbanell, and John Taylor, and Special Olympics tech advisor Jay Sartain talk about the purpose behind the film and comment on how successful they felt they were in pulling it off.
Theatrical Trailer (2:05, SD)
Well meaning, sweet (except for a vicious jab or two at the Catholic Church), and agreeably amusing, The Ringer is also predictable almost from beginning to end. The film has been given a beautiful high definition video encode which its fans will be sure to appreciate.
Overall Rating: 3/5
Reviewed By: Matt Hough
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