The Ringer parents guide

The Ringer Parent Guide

Overall C+

In desperate need of money, Steve Baker (Johnny Knoxville) bets on the one contest he's sure he can win -- The Special Olympics. Posing as a mentally challenged athlete, he prepares to run for the gold, only to discover his lack of ethics is not his only handicap.

Release date December 22, 2005

Violence B-
Sexual Content C+
Profanity D+
Substance Use B

Why is The Ringer rated PG-13? The MPAA rated The Ringer PG-13 for sexual humor, language and some drug references.

Parent Movie Review

Special Olympians are the center of attention in Johnny Knoxville’s latest film, The Ringer. But can the star of films like The Dukes of Hazzard and A Dirty Shame really pull off an uplifting tale about these athletes and their events?

In the movie, Knoxville plays Steve Barker, a good-hearted cubicle employee whose career is floundering. When he finally approaches the boss for some added responsibility, he is given the task of firing the janitor, a widowed immigrant with five young children. Worried about Stavi (Luis Avalos) and his family, Steve hires him to work as the gardener at his apartment complex. There an accident severs three of Stavi’s fingers and the young employer is faced with a huge medical bill and no insurance.

Steve’s crass, cigar-chewing uncle, Gary (Brian Cox), also has some overdue debts. As a solution to their money woes, he convinces Steve to fake his way into the Special Olympics. Then he plans to rig the competition and make a killing by placing huge bets on the underdog.

Steve is reluctant to participate in the scam at first. Then he meets Lynn (Katherine Heigl), one of the counselors at the event. Following their introduction, he gladly falsifies his condition in order to be near her. However his roommate (Edward Barbanell) and the other contestants are far more difficult to fool and before long they have him figured out. Once they hear his story, however, they agree to help him oust the cocky reigning champion, Jimmy Washington (Leonard Flowers).

Establishing himself as the lowlife of the film, Uncle Gary belittles the athletes, ridicules his nephew and makes sleazy, salacious remarks. Unfortunately, other jokes in the script also rely on bathroom commentary, sexual discussions and derogatory name calling for laughs. Profanities as well as a sexual expletive and hand gesture are also treated as comedy.

Slapstick violence is rampant as the other Olympians put Steve through rigorous training sessions that involve repeatedly pulling him out of bed, punching him in the stomach and chasing him with a dog. The phony, who is already prone to tripping, is also hit by flying objects, slapped around by his uncle and pummeled by a priest.

Over time, Steve’s appreciation for the athletic abilities and the sensitive nature of his fellow competitors increases. If the audience is able to grow along with the protagonist, the film will achieve its purpose of highlighting the accomplishments of Special Olympians.

However, with a load of content concerns, negligible consequences and an unlikely redemptive comeback The Ringer ends up being an imposter in the genre of inspirational family stories.

Starring Johnny Knoxville. Theatrical release December 22, 2005. Updated

The Ringer
Rating & Content Info

Why is The Ringer rated PG-13? The Ringer is rated PG-13 by the MPAA for sexual humor, language and some drug references.

Following Stavi’s accident, Steve rushes him to the hospital with his fingers in plastic bag. Despite the seriousness of the event, the scene is played for laughs. When Uncle Gary fails to pay his gambling debt, a group of thugs rough him up. Later we see the same group of men watching the Special Olympic events while drinking in a bar. After confessing his part in the scam, Steve is punched, kicked and tossed out of a church by an angry priest who later places a bet on the unlikely contestant. In one scene, Steve and his roommates are shown dancing in the shower room while wearing only towels. The dialogue includes brief comments about Jesus Christ. A woman is referred to as a hooker.

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The Ringer Parents' Guide

Do good intentions and compassion for others ever justify unscrupulous acts? Are there other options Steve can find to solve his money dilemma?

Is there a difference between forgiving and excusing a person’s behavior? What consequences result from Steve’s actions?

Leonard Flowers, who stars as Jimmy Washington, is a 16-year Special Olympics veteran. He competes in track and tennis, and has won numerous medals. To learn more about other athletes and the events involved in the Special Olympics, visit the official site at

Video alternatives…

Home Video

The most recent home video release of The Ringer movie is May 15, 2006. Here are some details…

DVD Release Date: 16 May 2006
Expose The Ringer with the following DVD extras included with this Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment release: a commentary by director Barry W. Blaustein, a “Fall-Down Funny” gag reel, a Special Olympics PSA, deleted scenes and trailers. Audio tracks are available in English (Dolby Surround 5.1) and Spanish (Dolby Surround), with subtitles in English and Spanish.

Related home video titles:

A high school football coach invites an intellectually challenged young man to assist him on the team and helps change the community’s attitude toward him in Radio. Jed Rees, who plays an athlete in The Ringer, trades in his running shoes for an alien suit in Galaxy Quest, a comedy about a group of actors from a defunct television show.