The Ringer

Movie review by
Cynthia Fuchs, Common Sense Media
The Ringer Movie Poster Image
Edgy Johnny Knoxville comedy - not for everyone.
  • PG-13
  • 2005
  • 94 minutes

Parents say

age 11+
Based on 5 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 8 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Rigging the Special Olympics; mobsters and loan sharking; arrogant Special athlete with limo and attendants; majority of Special athletes are smart, sensitive, loving.

Positive Role Models & Representations

With a plot hinged on rigging the Special Olympics it is hard to say with a straight face that there are any truly positive roles models here. Jimmy, the real-life Special Olympics champ, is the best this film has to offer. He is a good, solid, honest competitor. It's a shame the film spends most of its time making fun of people like him.


Slapsticky physical comedy; loss of fingers in a lawnmower accident; Steve falls, is hit in the face with a ball, chased by a barking dog, slapped in the face.


Adolescent joking with references to cheerleaders, masturbation, a homosexual act; brief makeout scene in a movie theater, where jokes are made about Dirty Dancing.


Mild cursing (s-word, "," " of ass," "," "-faker"), as well as derogatory terms for the intellectually challenged ("," "'tards").


Shopping trip to CostCo.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Brief reference to pot; characters drink in a bar; beer bottle and brief beer drinking at restaurant lunch; uncle smokes.

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."

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byBarnaby083 December 22, 2012

Fun Film

The Ringer is filled with positive messages and role models. The Special Olympics endorsed this movie and even had final say in the script. If nothing else it... Continue reading
Adult Written bymuhlessuh May 18, 2010

Good Message with a Funny Delivery

Knoxville who plays the main character, Steve Barker, a guy who for good reasons; if that's possible fakes being "handicapped" and enters The Spe... Continue reading
Kid, 10 years old April 23, 2012

lough out loud movie!

this movie is halarious! i am 10 and i watched it! they say f*ck in it but its not very insulting because the kid is autistic. some may find it offensive to aut... Continue reading
Kid, 11 years old September 9, 2009

older tweens+ funny as sh*t


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?

Movie details

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