The Ringer (2005 film)

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The Ringer
A group of athletes on a running track.
Promotional poster
Directed by Barry W. Blaustein
Produced by Peter Farrelly
Robert Farrelly
Written by Ricky Blitt
Music by Mark Mothersbaugh
Cinematography Mark Irwin
Edited by George Folsey Jr.
Distributed by Fox Searchlight
Release dates
  • December 23, 2005 (2005-12-23)
Running time
94 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $40,442,437[1]

The Ringer is a 2005 comedy starring Johnny Knoxville, Katherine Heigl, Christina Cartwright, and Brian Cox with cameos by Terry Funk and Jesse Ventura. Directed by Barry W. Blaustein, it was produced by the Farrelly brothers. The film was released on December 23, 2005 by Fox Searchlight.


Steve Barker (Johnny Knoxville) hates his job but after over two years of working, receives a promotion. His first duty is to fire his friend Stavi, who is the janitor. Steve fires Stavi (Luis Ávalos), but hires him to work around his apartment. Stavi gets three fingers cut off in a lawn-mower accident, and reveals that he doesn't have health insurance. Steve must raise $28,000 within two weeks to pay for the surgery to re-attach his friend's fingers. His uncle Gary (Brian Cox), owes $40,000 in gambling debts and suggests that they fix the Special Olympics in San Marcos, Texas in order to solve both of their financial problems. Steve, who competed in track and field in high school as well as being in the drama club, enters the Special Olympics in the guise of a high functioning young man with learning difficulties named Jeffy Dahmor. Gary, assuming that Steve will easily defeat the legitimate contenders, bets $100,000 that reigning champion Jimmy Washington won't win the gold medal. Despite initially being disgusted at pretending to be mentally challenged, Steve goes along with it for Stavi.

During the competition, Steve falls in love with Lynn (Katherine Heigl), a volunteer for the Special Olympics. During this time, six of the other contestants bust Steve for seeing through his ruse, so he tells them about what happened with Stavi. As Steve decides to pack up and leave for his ruse being exposed, they tell Steve to stay, since they want to help Steve save Stavi's fingers and they hate the egotistical, arrogant champion Jimmy and want to see him lose.

At the final competition, Steve doesn't actually win; his friend Glen does, with Steve coming in third behind Jimmy. During the medal ceremony Steve admits that he isn't developmentally disabled, reveals his actual name, and that he doesn't deserve his medal. He then gives his medal to Thomas, who had come in fourth. Uncle Gary still ends up winning his bet, since the condition was that Jimmy would lose.

Six months later, Steve has quit his job and is working in theater, helping produce a play with the friends he made during the Special Olympics, as well as Stavi, who got his fingers reattached. Glen and the others trick Lynn into coming to the theater, so Steve starts to apologize. Lynn, who was originally shocked at the ruse, already forgives him because Stavi told her why Steve pretended to be developmentally disabled. Lynn is relieved, and they kiss.

During the end credits, the play of Romeo and Juliet is performed which ends with the Kids of Widney High performing Aretha Franklin's "Respect".


Professional wrestlers Terry Funk and Jesse Ventura's cameo appearances came about due to their friendship with director Barry Blaustein, who met the pair whilst filming wrestling documentary Beyond the Mat in the late 1990s. Funk portrayed one of the debt collectors, while Ventura lent his voice as a motivational speaker on tape.


The film took seven years to get made due to its controversial subject.[2] The Special Olympics committee eventually agreed to endorse the film, the film makers having given them final say on the script.[3]

Producer Farrelly is himself a longtime volunteer with Best Buddies, a group that provides mentoring program for people with intellectual disabilities, and has prominently featured disabled characters in his previous films such as Warren the brother of Mary in There’s Something About Mary and Rocket in Stuck on You.[2]


The film-review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes lists 40% positive reviews based on 84 critics, with an average rating of 4.8 out of 10. The general consensus is that the film was too predictable.[4]

When The Ringer was first brought to the media's attention, many expected a crude movie that would shine a negative light on the special needs community. Many were not for the movie, and immediately had a negative view of it. A few claim that they found the film "crude and offensive not only to me, but probably traumatizing for anyone who actually had a disability and saw this movie".[5]

Roger Ebert gave the film 3 out of 4 stars, stating: "The movie surprised me. It treats its disabled characters with affection and respect... and it's actually kind of sweet."[6]

Spinal Cord Injury Zone stated: "Instead of tugging at the heartstrings, The Ringer uses the typical outrageous Farrelly Brothers humor (There's Something About Mary, Stuck on You, Shallow Hal) to promote the message that just like everyone else, individuals with intellectual disabilities are people first, each with their own interests, talents, abilities and personalities. The movie also features more than 150 people with intellectual disabilities in small parts and supporting roles."[7]


  1. "Ton of Shame"- Written by: Randy Weeks...Performed by: Randy Weeks
  2. "Mr. Sandman"- Written by: Pat Ballard
  3. "Sweet Ride"- Written by: Gustaf Norén and Björn Dixgård...Performed by: Mando Diao
  4. "Wink and a Nod"- Written by: Tom Wolfe...Performed by: The Funny Bones
  5. "Merlot"- Written by: Tom Wolfe...Performed by: The Tasters
  6. "Real Thing"- Written by: Tom Wolfe...Performed by: The Shakers
  7. "Main Title- Written by: Elmer Bernstein...Performed by: Elmer Bernstein
  8. "Calvera"- Written by: Elmer Bernstein...Performed by: Elmer Bernstein
  9. "Hot Sugar"- Written by: Sammy James Jr. and Graham Tyler...Performed by: The Mooney Suzuki
  10. "Girls Gone Wild"- Written by: Karlyton Clanton, Rochad Holiday and Chris Reese...Performed by: Dirty Rat
  11. "We Got to Get You a Woman"- Written by: Todd Rundgren...Performed by: Todd Rundgren
  12. "If She Wants Me"- Written by: Sarah Martin, Stuart Murdoch, Richard Colburn, Mick Cooke (as Michael Cooke), Christopher Geddes, Stevie Jackson (as Stephen Jackson) and Bob Kildea- Performed by: Belle & Sebastian
  13. "Piano Man"- Written by: Billy Joel
  14. "My Cherie Amour"- Written by: Stevie Wonder, Sylvia Moy and Henry Cosby
  15. "Kellerman's Anthem"- Written by: Michael Goldman
  16. "Fox Sports Network College Basketball Theme 2001"- Written by: Christopher Brady
  17. "September"- Written by: Allee Willis, Al McKay and Maurice White...Performed by Earth Wind & Fire
  18. "Pretty Girls"- Written by: Carl Brown, Shelly Goodhope, Tanesa Tavin,Daniel Brattain, Veronica Mendez, Darrell Mitchell, Albert Cota, Chantel Roquemore and Michael Monagan...Performed by: The Kids Of Widney High
  19. "Respect"- Written by: Otis Redding...Performed by:The Kids Of Widney High
  20. "You Are Everything"- Written by: Linda Creed and Thom Bell (as Thomas Bell)...Performed by: The Stylistics


  1. ^ "The Ringer (2005)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2009-09-26. 
  2. ^ a b "The Special Olympics approve of ‘The Ringer’". The Associated Press. Retrieved 2009-10-09. 
  3. ^ "Grab your popcorn and head to your local theater for The Ringer on 23 December". 2005-10-13. Archived from the original on 2005-12-24. 
  4. ^ "The Ringer (2005)". Rotten Tomatoes (Flixster). Retrieved 2011-03-02. 
  5. ^ [1]. "Please describe a character in a recent movie who represented a stereotype and that you found offensive"
  6. ^ Ebert, Roger. "The Ringer (PG-13)." Chicago Sun Times, 22 December 2005.
  7. ^ [2]. "Spinal Cord Injury Zone," November 22, 2005.

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