The Wringer

The Wringer

Netflix Queue Gardening: Stuff to add or remove from your list

It showed up in our mailbox, out of one of the teens’ Netflix queues presumably, and this weekend with our other DVDs watched or in transit, it came down to The Ringer, which is not only the recent Johnny “Jackass” Knoxille vehicle but also one of those “outrageous” Farelly brothers movies.

Now, the Brothers haven’t quibbled about using mentally challenged people in their films before. There’s Something About Mary provided not just a main character with Down’s but plenty of jokes at their expense. Dumb And Dumber‘s protagonists are also not fully compiled. But I’m not here to dissemble their ouvre like an academic. Suffice it to say that The Ringer is the point where they decided to go all the way.

Let’s start with the premise: a hard-up but honest worker (Knoxville) needs to come up with a few thousand dollars for a friend’s operation. His sleazy uncle (played by America’s Ben Kingsley, Bryan Cox) convinces him to infiltrate the Special Olympics and throw the pentathlon as part of a betting scam.

It’s awful.

It’s the sort of awful that begs to be witnessed, that entices you like someone saying “the trash smells really bad,” into leaning in and taking a good whiff. On the plus side, the movie gives not one but a whole team of mentally challenged actors leading roles. The characters are treated unflinchingly, sometimes cruelly, but it’s easy to understand that it’s a bit of realism that does the thinking man some good. The famed genre band The Kids of Widney High made an appearance in the end, that was nice too.

On the minus side, the folks at the real Special Olympics are in a no-win situation. Presumably they gave their approval to this project, in which the organization comes off as an administratively incompetent “let’s all hug” sort of panacea. Is it really like that? If not, why would it allow itself to be portrayed like that? Why couldn’t they just call it the “Superlative Olympics” or the “Special Challenge” and no-one gets hurt? Excuse me for expecting way too much suspension of disbelief out of Knoxville and Farrelys, but come on people.

The bottom line is that the laughs are there, but not in the frequency it takes to keep you from feeling a bit squeamish and uncomfortable about it. About Knoxville’s inept portrayal (who’da thought), about Down’s people, about feeling insensitive, yet somewhat defiant about it. Take it off your queue, reading this has been enough.

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