*½/**** Image A Sound A Extras C
starring Johnny Knoxville, Brian Cox, Katherine Heigl, Jed Rees
screenplay by Ricky Blitt
directed by Barry W. Blaustein
by Walter Chaw There are a couple of fascinating things embedded in the premise and execution of Barry W. Blaustein's Farrelly Brothers-produced The Ringer, the story of Steve Barker, a broke cubicle monkey who tries to do the right thing and ends up trying to rig the Special Olympics by impersonating a mentally-challenged athlete. One is the notion that it's easier to feign retardation to the non-challenged than it is to the challenged; and the other is that, in taking Barker's "Jeffy" at face value, there's actually less offense in this broad play for sentimental, slapstick chuckles than in the Oscar-winning/aspiring pieces (Forrest Gump, I Am Sam, Rain Man) Steve uses as research. "There's the secret," a habit-clad Kate Winslet confides to Ricky Gervais in the brilliant debut of his new show, "Extras". "If you want an Oscar you have to play a mental."