Ringer, TheReviewed By Peter Sobczynski
Posted 12/23/05 15:59:12
(Worth A Look)
Compared to the likes of such current comedies as “Fun With Dick and Jane” or “Rumor Has It,” “The Ringer” is about as the genre gets. It is crudely made, the storyline has a ramshackle quality that exists only serve as a laundry line for the various gags and it doesn’t so much end as it simply grinds to a halt after 90 minutes. The difference between them is that what “The Ringer” lacks in sophistication, it makes up for by containing the one element that those films, for all their taste and class, simply lack–a lot of enormous laughs that will amuse cineastes and slobs alike..The set-up is one of those one-joke notions that so completely summarizes things that you almost don’t have to see the movie in order to absorb it. Johnny Knoxville stars as Steve Barker, an ordinary schnook who dreams of making it in the corporate world but lacks the killer instinct. When he does get a promotion, his first task is to fire the friendly janitor for the sketchiest of reasons–instead of canning the guy, Steve winds up hiring him to do the yardwork at his apartment complex. When the guy loses his fingers in a lawnmowing accident, Steve is on the hook for $28,000 in medical bills and turns to his sleazy Uncle Gary (Brian Cox) for help. Unfortunately, Uncle Gary owes sixty large to his less-than-patient bookie and is in no position to help (not that he would, of course.) However, Gary has a brilliant idea. The bookie is an enormous fan of the Special Olympics, especially one champion whom he describes as “the Deion Sanders of retards.” Since Steve was both a track star and an aspiring actor in high school, he will pose as a developmentally-disabled athlete and win the tournament because of his superior skill, allowing Gary to clean up by betting against the champ.
Hearing that premise, many of you are probably expecting a lot of tasteless scenes of Knoxville running around drooling and spazzing out in an effort to pretend that he is mentally challenged–no doubt while “normal” people pretend not to notice–until he has a last-minute change of heart to condescendingly remind us that They Are People Too. That was my assumption walking into the screening and I was surprised to discover that the film was a lot more clever than that. For starters, his ruse is discovered almost immediately by some of his fellow competitors–the twist is that they want him to stay and continue the scam in order to beat the self-aggrandizing five-time champion that they are sick and tired of losing to. Additionally, he quickly learns that many of the participants are genuinely good and that he will actually have to put in a lot of training to get up to snuff.
It is also a lot funnier than it sounds; after a rough opening ten minutes, virtually every scene contains at least one or two decent-sized laughs and for once, the trailer doesn’t give away the best gags. (We’ve seen the bit in the trailer where Knoxville confesses to a priest and get slapped around by him in response but there is a final payoff later on that is genuinely inspired.) Against all odds, Knoxville, perhaps the only personality working in Hollywood today who could play such a role and seem perfectly suited for it, is reasonably amusing and engaging under the circumstances and Brian Cox is absolutely hysterical as his heartless cohort–Cox is usually seen in more serious fare and perhaps only a dramatic actor could possibly deliver a line like “Since when did ‘tard’ become politically incorrect?” with enough genuine guile so that it sounds like something a person (albeit a monstrous one) might actually say“The Ringer” isn’t perfect–the opening scenes aren’t very promising, the odd flirtation between Knoxville and a pretty volunteer (Katherine Heigl) likewise goes nowhere and it predictably loses steam towards the end when the truth finally comes out–but it turns out to be a likable goof that contains a lot of laughs, a little bit of heart and one of the more unforgettable renditions of “Piano Man” that you are likely to hear in this lifetime. You may be slightly embarrassed with yourself for laughing during “The Ringer” but I guarantee that, unlike many recent comedies, you won’t hate yourself in the morning for doing so.
|© Copyright HBS Entertainment, Inc.|