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A ringer of a good film

December 31, 2005

I'm taking a break from my trip home to Longview, Texas, to write you a review. I dragged along some friends to see "The Ringer." Did I like it? Let's find out.

"The Ringer" stars Johnny Knoxville as lovable loser Steve Barker. In order to pay a medical bill, his Uncle Gary (Brian Cox) comes up with a plan to enter Steve as a competitor and "fix" the Special Olympics.

The plan is simple: Steve pretends to be mentally challenged, Uncle Gary makes a bet and Steve wins the Olympics. With the winnings, Steve's hospital bills will be paid. Seems like a good idea for a comedy. It is.

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I know what you're thinking. Johnny Knoxville pretending to be mentally challenged? Won't this movie be disrespectful to Special Olympic athletes? Yes and no.

"The Ringer" is actually a tribute to the Special Olympics and believe it or not, Knoxville handles his role with compassion.

The big question the film asks: Is it OK to laugh at individuals with learning disabilities? It's not OK to laugh at someone, but it's OK to laugh with someone. That's the message of this low-budget comedy.

The best part of "The Ringer" is that the Special Olympians are actually acting and they are very funny. My audience was hesitant to laugh at first, but they were cracking up by the time the credits ran 94 minutes later.

You must be patient. The first 20 minutes are slow and not very humorous.

The comedy begins to roll when Knoxville takes the "short bus" to the Special Olympics to compete.

My biggest complaint is "The Ringer" is way too politically correct. Comedy gold is lost trying not to offend anyone.

The film is rated PG-13 but that's for mild language. Feel free to take the kids.

If you're looking for cheap laughs, "The Ringer" is a quality date movie.

I was the typical "third wheel" and went with my friend Neil and his lovely wife, Amy.

The film was shot in Texas and the production value is solid.

The soundtrack is weak but you've got to cut corners somewhere.

"The Ringer" won't win any medals in filmmaking but like everyone who competes in the Special Olympics, it's a winner.

* MATT BELLNER is an actor/political activist from Burbank.

20051231i4xf2hkf(LA)Matt Bellner

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