The Red Right Hand
  www.theredrighthand.co.uk





THE RINGER
Special Has Been Redefined

 
Director
Barry W. Blaustein
Starring
Johnny Knoxville
Brian Cox
Katherine Hiegl

Statement: I promise I will not use the word special as a pun or play-on-word in any way. I refuse to be one of those reviewers that can't think of anything decent to say, so play on the title.

What initially sounds like an outrageous comedy, in the typical Farrelly Brothers style (producers), pushing the envelope to its' cinematic limit is, unfortunately, nothing more than a overly safe - and therefore overly predictable - attempt to make us laugh. First of all, Johnny Knoxville (of Jackass fame) has one real talent: falling over and making a fool of himself. You would think that with a script of this nature, casting him in the lead role would cash-in on his style of humour.. wrong again, instead we are treated to Knoxville's acting. Don't get me wrong, the guy's amusing but he can't act to save his life. I guess the casting director must have seen The Dukes Of Hazzard and since Knoxville wasn't nearly as irritating as Sean William Scott, they must have assumed he's a solid investment.

We open to a small call centre with the funniest lines of the film narrating over the top of the credits and panning camera - a confidence enhancing tape with someone who sounds like Jesse Ventura saying, "You're a worthless maggot! I know this because you bought this tape, like all the other losers that bought this tape!" That made me chuckle a bit. Following the tape's advice Steve [Knoxville] walks into his boss' office, states that he's been working for the company for two years and requests more responsibility. His boss agrees and sends him up to an office, but before he can go he must fire the janitor, Stavi [Luis Avalos]. Being the sweet and cute and loveable, and so bloody unrealistic that it made me want to wretch, man that Knoxville is, he decides that instead of firing Stavi, he would re-employ him to mow his own lawn. Stavi isn't exactly a man of great intellect, so it's no wonder that he sticks his hand in the mower and gets three fingers lopped off. After being seen by the doctor it is made clear to Steve that, as his employer, he needs to find $28,000 to pay for the surgery, as Stavi has no insurance. Obviously he can't get that much money before the operation becomes impossible so Steve calls his dodgy gambling Uncle Gary [Cox]. Seems Gary's got money problems of his own; outstanding debts with unsavoury characters. Whilst being threatened, Gary sees an advert on the television for the Special Olympics. 3am and Gary appears at Steve's door with a plan. (Conveniently) The qualifiers for the 'Specials' are being held the following week - in the same town, no less - and there isn't much time to prepare. You can guess the sort of crap that follows. They weasel their way in, posing as the speech impeded Jeffy Dahmor. Naturally Steve is caught out by the other competitors and a confrontation is about to kick off. Who knows what kind of slurs will be thrown about? Feelings hurt, souls destroyed, tears shed - all in the name of comical cinema! Imagine my disappointment when they accept him for who he is and think it's cool that he's trying to get the money for Stavi's surgery and knocking the mean, self-centred Jimmy Washington [Leonard Flowers] off his pedestal in the process. They train hard and they play hard. Oh the frolics and high jinx those sly boots get themselves into, ho ho! So dire. This isn't a challenging comedy at all, it's a film that thinks it's offensive but is far too concerned with not pissing anyone off to be funny. I'm not saying you need to have an obese man running around and some jock-type pointing and laughing for 90 minutes to make a comedy but you need to take a risk every now-and-then. I know that the Farrelly Bros. have a close friend, Rocket, who is handicapped and they're always trying to write in a character as an homage but it would have been such a better film if the Farrellys hadn't been on the sidelines and had actually directed this piece.

The actors do what they can with the script, especially Cox - I know I'm biased because I think he's a glorious actor, but he made me laugh.... often - but it just lets them down. Knoxville's acting aside, he gives a very likeable performance, both as compassionate Steve and innocent Jeffy; and every once in a while he gets to trip or fall off something. Katherine Heigl, on the other hand, just frustrated me. She plays Lynn, one of the trainers or organisers, I don't know, her job is never really made clear. She's the one who lets Jeffy compete without any medical details or papers - silly naive girl. Oh, sorry, did that anger you? I don't care, she was! Everything she did was so painfully predictable: She smiles and Steve/Jeffy falls for her, her stupid flirty boyfriend cheats on her and she fails to realise, she deals with mentally challenged people everyday and can't see through Steve/Jeffy, she takes Steve/Jeffy out shopping, for meals and sweet innocent car drives, sharing moments together - aww. It's not really Heigl's fault, the script has failed her - but she read said script and accepted the part so I can blast her for it.

I'm getting away from the point and clearly trying to incite bigotry and hatred - let's face it, if I don't acknowledge that I'll be bombarded with e-mails tomorrow morning. This film is far too cutesy to make an impression on anyone and too taboo to reach mass audiences. It shows those that compete in the Special Olympics (or anyone different in any way) in a way that demonstrates their positive qualities; showing that they're no different from anyone else. That's nice and all but makes for bland predictable viewing. Sorry kids, this film is nothing special............. wait..... OH DAMN IT!!

Release Date:
24th March 2006

The Scene To Look Out For:
Mid-way through their training montage, the guys take time off to jump around the common room, inciting a massive water fight. As one of the trainers walks in to find them seated calmly in the middle of the room, they simply play dumb and say things like, "I had an accident!" "Yeah! A big one!" It's just a funny scene that shows them all getting along together. Granted, a little cheesy, but it's a REALLY cheesy film, so a slightly cheesy scene makes for heartfelt sincerity by comparison.

Notable Characters:
Uncle Gary, no reason why, I just like Brian Cox. He plays your average ignoramus, loud-mouthed and tactless. Providing the audience with a few humorous moments - a nice change from the mushy pap going on between the two leads.

Highlighted Quote:
"When the fuck did we get ice cream?"

In A Few Words:
Ricky Blitt once wrote an episode of Family Guy that was banned from television. Then he wrote this.... lo, how the mighty hath fallen.

Total Score:
4/10


Matthew Stogdon