A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this movie means to be offensive, with jokes about bowel movements, pee, vomit, toilets, the loss of fingers in a lawnmower, and indeed, the basic premise (rigging the Special Olympics). The movie also features repeated adolescent sex humor, including allusions to masturbation, homosexual activity, prostitution, and "cheerleaders."
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
THE RINGER begins with Steve (Johnny Knoxville) in desperate need of cash, when his friend Stavi (Luis Avalos) loses his fingers in an accident, and lacks health insurance. As it happens, Steve's Uncle Gary (Brian Cox) needs to pay off his beefy loan shark Michael (Al Train Dias): together they scheme to defraud the Special Olympics. As Gary sees it, a "normal guy against a bunch of feebs" is a guaranteed win. "You'll look like Carl Lewis out there," he gushes. As Steve pretends to be "Jeffy," his primary opponent is Jimmy Washington (real-life Wheaties special athlete and box model Leonard Flowers), the Games superstar for the past six years. Jimmy wins metals and falls for Special Olympics volunteer Lynn (Katherine Heigl), who is in a wretched relationship with a handsome cad.
Is it any good?
Like other Farrelly brothers films (they produced this one), The Ringer has obnoxious, cringe-inducing jokes framed within a conventional romance. The film's fundamental lesson is that the "intellectually challenged" and the supposedly unchallenged are only differentiated by dominant perception and beliefs, that "normal" is measurable and desirable.
The movie draws attention to differences in perceptions by special and non-special characters, with the former consistently more insightful and compassionate. They see through Steve's performance when all the "normals" don't. But they also want him to stay on, because they want to see Jimmy beaten, and this leads to scenes ranging from rowdy to charming, as the "beat Jimmy" crew shares stories about being told what they "can't do."
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the propriety of joking about intellectually challenged characters: though the special athletes are arguably the most entertaining and well-rounded characters, how does the film use them as background for Steve's story?
How does the movie use the romance with Lynn as a sign of Steve's maturation?