Marry the Farrelly Brothers' anti-PC schtick with the mock-arsehole antics of Johnny Knoxville. Graft on the story of a guy who plays a mentally disabled athlete and you've got a sicko shitstorm that's as funny as it's wrong. Right? Well...
The Ringer takes place firmly in Adam Sandler-Land, with Knoxville gleefully launching himself into the task of inventing his mentally challenged alter-ego: Jackass-style pratfalls and groin kicks, wearing his pants round his ears, splattering himself in rib sauce on a lunch date with Lynn (Katherine Heigl) and rattling out moronic lines like, "I can count to potato!" and "Can I have a piece of your doody?" But when he gets busted, the squeaky speech disappears and Knoxville looks less comfortable with the serious stuff.
It's taken almost seven years for The Ringer to find its way in front of a camera; it's obviously been gathering dust because execs thought it too chancey. Then, no doubt influenced by Knoxville's co-stars being portrayed in a wholly fun and cutesy way, the Special Olympics hit it with their approval.
But this is the big problem. The finished film is simply flavourless, being way too careful to steer clear of any sense of potential controversy or an offensive edge. Worse, it doesn't even take the story and give it any satirical poke. Everything is played nice and safe and modulated, with surprisingly few attempts at all-out laughs. Although, Knoxville's quirky speech being blamed on his "Canadian roots" should raise a smirk, as will the scene wherea priest kicks him from one end of a church to the other after he confesses a little too much.
In fact, the standard lowbrow Farrelly humour is here, but it feels flat and strangely watered-down. Plenty of fart, vomit and ball-busting gags, but the only one taking any kind of chance with the material is Brian Cox as Knoxville's Uncle Gary. "Sorry - I swear, sometimes I think I should be the one wearing the helmet to bed," he quips to competition training-camp volunteer Lynn when she quizzes him about his "misplaced" medical forms.