Credit: The Ringer: Deana Newcomb

It sounds like the ultimate poor-taste bonanza: a comedy set at the Special Olympics, with a cast made up, in large part, of the mentally challenged plus Johnny Knoxville as a con man who tries to fix the Olympics by pretending to be one of them. The surprise of The Ringer, co-produced by the Farrelly brothers, is that the movie, which is pretty damn funny, invites us to giggle at the awkwardness of its characters — the toneless speech and dippy jokes, the junior-high earnestness about sex — yet it refuses to see them as stumblebum saints. Instead, they’re testy, aggressive regular guys who are so used to being condescended to that they’ve evolved a mode of literal-minded one-upmanship all their own. Knoxville mugs with ace imbecility as Olympics fraud ”Jeffy Dahmor,” zigzagging between spasms of guilt at the lowness of what he’s doing and the ability to do it with peculiar shameless verve; he’s especially good at slapping himself to convey fear. Cruel and inhuman? Not in The Ringer, a film that does for the mentally challenged what Revenge of the Nerds did for the pocket-protector set, finding a hidden coolness in their ability to be themselves.

The Ringer
  • Movie
  • 94 minutes