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“The Ringer”, True Equality for All or a Step Backwards?

By: Adam H.

What would you say if a person would try to enter the Special Olympics and make people think he was actually Developmentally Disabled? Horrible Right? Well, this is what happens in the new film “The Ringer.” Steve Barker (Johnny Knoxville) is an average office worker looking for some new challenges to his job. Barker must fire a janitor of long-time status to the company, but he feels sorry for him and rehires him for a new job. In the process the janitor, Stavi, is hurt and must be taken to the hospital. Now Steve Barker must find a way to earn a huge sum of money in one week! Gary (Brian Cox), Steve’s uncle, tells him that he should “rig the Special Olympics” by pretending to be a Special Olympics athlete.

But, as Steve enters into the Special Olympics as his alter ego, Jeffy, the athletes quickly realize that he is not like one of them. Now he is in trouble, if the athletes tell their coaches he is not developmentally disabled, then his uncle may lose a bet that he put on him to beat the reigning champion, 6-time Gold Medalist, Jimmy, in order to help Stavi. As kind as the Special Olympians are known to be, they reach an agreement that they will not squeal on Steve if he can beat Jimmy. They are tired of Jimmy taking the glory all the time. They train Steve to be able to run faster, jump higher, and toss further than Jimmy.

Special Olympics, a very proud organization that was created by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, endorsed this film with the hopes that it will be the beginning of equality for all people, disabled and non-disabled. Tim Shriver, now head of the Special Olympics Board, Peter and Bobby Farrelly, known for such movies as “Dumb and Dumber,” “There’s Something About Mary,” and “Stuck On You,” are the producers that had worked on making this film so all people could laugh with the athletes, rather than at the athletes. Special Olympians will enjoy this movie with others because it has plenty of humor for all to understand. There are even Special Olympic athletes who are some of the main characters and plenty of athletes as the extras. Written by Ricky Blitt, writer of “Family Guy” on Fox, and directed by Barry Blaustein, writer for “The Nutty Professor” and “The Honey Mooners,” this movie is a feel-good, light-hearted comedy. People will be entertained as well as learning these individuals are more than they are perceived to be by many people.

There are many different views to this movie, some good and not so good, but Special Olympics and the National Downs Syndrome Society both back the film because it sends a good message. Audiences learn, just like Steve, that the athletes are fun to hang out with and they can do nearly as much as anyone else can. To be fair, there are a few words that may have people nervous the first 15 minutes of the film, but it is quickly found that it teaches the lesson the word “retard” is a term that people with intellectual disabilities find hurtful. The Farrelly brothers would like to see a positive spotlight shown on “The Ringer” because it could help begin to change stereotypes about people with disabilities before they talk with them and get to know them. The main idea was if Johnny Knoxville is in the movie, he could attract the audience from his show “Jack [Butt]”, the people who are normally mean towards kids in the schoolyard and say the word every person hates to hear “Retard.” By attracting these people, he says in the movie “don’t make fun of my friends!” then his followers will start doing the same. As the Farrelly’s explained in an interview with “ABC News” on December 26th, "Every time you see a movie about people with intellectual disabilities, they're portrayed it's a tear-jerker, it's sad. It's depressing. We wanted to throw something out there that was uplifting." “The Ringer” is a light-hearted comedy that will open your mind and your heart to intellectually disabled individuals.

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Do you have a review that you would like to submit? Please send it to Liz Wolford at lizwolford@bestbuddies.org.


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