Hollywood Product - The Ringer
Genre: Tasteless yet inspirational sports film
The Pitch: Egged on by his bet-crazy uncle (Brian Cox), office drudge Steve Barker (Johnny Knoxville) feigns developmental disability to rig the Special Olympics as competitor "Jeffy Dohmar." But is Steve able enough to beat arrogant champion Jimmy (Leonard Flowers), who his uncle calls "The Deion Sanders of retards"?
Money shots: Steve researches mental impairment by watching such films as Rain Man, Forrest Gump and The Best of Chevy Chase. Jimmy arrives at the field showing off his entourage and bling. Steve's fellow Olympians threaten him to learn his secret — then struggle to make sense out of his convoluted scheme.
Best line: "Somebody help me, I got a bag of fingers here!" cries Steve at an emergency room after an uninsured friend suffers a lawn mower accident, spurring Steve's need for quick cash.
Product placement: The real Special Olympics consulted on and endorse the film, which becomes a kind of infomercial for the event. As "Jeffy," Steve goes on a de facto date to Costco with non-disabled Lynn (Katherine Heigl). Steve and his six disabled buddies go to see Dirty Dancing.
Cameo: Wrestler/actor/ex-Governor Jesse Ventura provides the voice of a motivational speaker who declares, "I've had bowel movements with more spine than you."
Off-screen controversy: Writer Ricky Blitt and co-producers Peter and Bobby Farrelly have accused "South Park" creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone of stealing their idea for the 2004 episode "Up the Down Steroid."
Politically correct?: Apart from some mean epithets and Knoxville's embarrassing performance as Jeffy, surprisingly so. Despite the occasional Moe Howard haircut, the disabled characters show more dignity, confidence and common sense than Steve. But they're not merely childish saints: They can act like assholes or even play up their disabilities to get attention from the opposite sex.
The bottom line: Watching Knoxville pretend to hurt himself in movies isn't nearly as fun as watching him actually hurt himself on "Jackass." Since the romantic subplot and slapstick stumble so often, you suspect that a film that focused on the funny, complex dynamics among the disabled would have been more special in either sense of the word.
Opens: Now playing.