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'The Ringer'

Think of "The Ringer" as a Farrelly brothers movie, neutered. It still might pee on the carpet or chew up the furniture, but it won't get the neighbor's dog pregnant. Written by Ricky Blitt and directed by Barry W. Blaustein, but produced by Peter and Bobby Farrelly (along with Bradley Thomas and John Jacobs), the film stars Johnny Knoxville as a former high school athlete with unfulfilled thespian aspirations who feigns mental deficiency to fix the Special Olympics.

Brian Cox costars as Uncle Gary, whose idea it is to have his nephew Steve (Knoxville) enter the competition in order to defeat the heavy favorite, Jimmy (Leonard Flowers). Uncle Gary hopes to literally bet his house to relieve him and Steve of their respective debt. Nothing goes as planned as the genuinely special athletes quickly wise up to Steve but have a rather surprising scheme of their own. The filmmakers worked closely with Special Olympics representatives and, though the movie bears some of the Farrellys' trademark outrageous humor, it has a sweet demeanor and makes a noble statement. Many of the roles are filled more than capably by "diff-abled" actors, and it's a tribute to the film that in some cases it's difficult to tell them from other actors playing disabled characters. They also have some of the funniest lines. Katherine Heigl of "Grey's Anatomy" plays Knoxville's love interest.


"The Ringer," PG-13 for crude and sexual humor, language and some drug references. Running time: 1 hour, 34 minutes. In general release.

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