Rating -

Comedy (US); 1998; Rated R; 90 Minutes

Jerry Springer: Jerry Farrelly
Jaime Pressly: Angel Zorzak
Molly Hagan: Connie Zorzak
William McNamara: Troy
Michael Dudikoff: Rusty

Produced by David Bales, Brent Baum, Don Corsini, Richard Dominick, Gary W. Goldstein, Garret Grant, Bradley Jenkel, Donal Kushner, Peter Locke, Brian Medavoy, Erwin More, Mark Morgan, Jade Rainsey, Gina Rugolo, Jerry Springer and Steven Stabler; Directed by Neil Abramson; Screenwritten by Jon Berstein

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Written by DAVID KEYES

John Waters was once considered to be the "king of trash talk" by his admirers, and no wonder. He made movies about events in pop culture that no one would normally find funny, but most would consider satirical. His biggest movie, "Pink Flamingos," was the film that earned him that trash talk title, and up until the outbreak of television trash talk, he kept that title with a vengeance.

As most know, that soon changed. In came television's most notorious talk show host: Jerry Springer. His talk show was not only severely censored, but completely revealing and intense, probably as revealing and intense as anything can get on the Fox network (and that's saying something). Within a short period, Jerry's show was at the top of the talk show ladder, and until just recently, most of his viewers believed the stories told on the show. Just this summer, however, reports emerged that the hour program on Fox that, to most of the extent, the show's themes and subject matter were all staged merely for entertainment and exploitation. Jerry Springer himself denied the accusations, but soon, the reports were too numerous to avoid. After you see one episode, how can it not be staged?

The talk show itself offered some cheap thrills to start with, but it eventually evolved into a dreary series of bleeped language skills, large fist-fights, and overwhelmingly unbelievable situations. It slipped into reverse, and became digested in its own clichés.

Earlier this year, Springer released his autobiography, tentatively titled "Ringmaster." Now, that title finds use in his movie, though its not based on the actual book he wrote. In fact, Neil Abramson's (or should I say Jerry Springer's?) "Ringmaster" is a one-joke movie without the joke; a comedy without the laughs; and a film without the reason for being one. It tries to evolve some sort of understanding and pity for Springer as he sits and watches his guests trash his set and each other's hair styles, but fails miserably by placing him backstage in some scenes where he admires his physique in a mirror.

This is pathetic, to put it bluntly. I don't know what drove Jerry to think that a movie about his show needed to be made, but whatever it was, it was certainly more illogical than half of his final thoughts. This is a good reason why talk show hosts don't turn their shows into movies: we've got what we want on television. Why bring it into a theater?

I fear it's because his video, "Too Hot For TV," was not enough for his fans. He has to take his three-ringed circus as far as it can go, just as long as it doesn't go higher than an "R" rating. I must admit, this is probably as far as an "R" rating can be pushed, and for a television show personality like Jerry Springer, pushing this MPAA rating is no big accomplishment. If the show had gone uncensored for television, it would likely have to appear on one of those pay-per-view extravaganza's.

"Ringmaster," sadly, plays like numerous segments of two bad movies slapped together in no particular order; first, you have the situations on stage, as Jerry sits and watches the action unfold for his audience, and secondly, you have the backstage shots which show Jerry making goo-goo eyes at himself in the mirror, and his show guests begin the fights before anything has gone on air. There is no originality other than the over-toned brutality of the sexual preferences and fist fights; everything is a routine, self-absorbed portrait of America's most notorious television star, "the new king of trash talk." Now that I think about it, I'm glad no one ever made a movie about John Waters.

The script relies mainly on the subject matter of the television show, just to grasp our attention. People sleep with other people, they get into fights, learn that they are sleeping with other people in the audience, etc. Repeat that process about ten times with randomized characters and, boom, you've got the first bad movie.

Now, try to picture Jerry in front of the mirror admiring himself. This is the second bad movie, and it's the most frustrating part of the whole mess. Who wants to watch over twenty minutes of this backstage garbage, anyway? We think that Jerry's life off stage would be more normal, but what the movie makes his life out to be is a talk show subject all on its own. Everything looks and feels so fake (like the show) that its not even funny. In fact, it's a downright shame. This is a two-hour television show with backstage footage, and nothing more. The only difference, though, is that we thankfully have commercials to interrupt the television show. "Ringmaster" is a movie that needs a fast-forward button on the seats.

Even though the movie left me feeling uninterested and angry, I seem to be constantly reminded of one of Jerry's only observant lines in the picture. The words he speaks are as follows: "this is a slice of the American dream. If you don't like it, then bite on something else."

With my luck, Jerry Springer will actually read this review and take into consideration the similar words which follow: "this is a slice of your movie's critical rejection; if you don't like it, than you can bite me."

© 1998, David Keyes, Cinemaphile.org. Please e-mail the author here if the above review contains any spelling or grammar mistakes.
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