Directed by Neil Abramson
Cast: Jerry Springer, Jamie Pressly, Molly Hagan, Wendy Raquel Robinson, Michael Jai White, Michael Dudikoff, John Capodice, William McNamara, Krista Tesreau.
1998 95 minutes
Rated: (for profanity, sex, and nudity).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, November 28, 1998.
"Ringmaster," the film debut of controversial talk show host Jerry Springer (who also produces), is an uproarious, raunchy comedy that is much better than I expected it would be, not to mention funnier, but a film that didn't seem to add up to much when it was all over.
The film wisely does not focus on Springer (who actually is the blandest character here), but on two groups of lower-class people that are thrilled to get to go on the "Jerry" show. The first group is a bunch of white trash living in a trailer park. Angel (Jamie Pressly), a slutty 19-year-old, works as a maid for a motel by day (and who services the customers, as well), and in the evening carries on an affair with her stepfather (Michael Dudikoff), much to the chargin' of her equally promiscuous mother (Molly Hagan). The second group of people is a feisty black woman named Starletta (Wendy Raquel Robinson) who is angered at her cheating "dog" boyfriend (Michael Jai White). When both groups are accepted on the show, they come into contact with each other, in more than one sense of the word, while at their all-expenses-paid hotel.
"Ringmaster," is far superior than I had expected because the film wisely centered on the characters, rather than Jerry, and it did a pretty good job of telling both of their stories. All actors, who are mostly unknowns, did a servicable job in their rather thankless roles, and Wendy Raquel Robinson, as Starletta, was, by far, the standout. In every single scene she was in, I couldn't help but laugh at her endless energy and hilarious dialogue. Also added to the comic relief of her character was her beloved hair piece, which goes through quite a lot during the duration of the film! I also liked Molly Hagan, as the mother of Angel, who is not a very happy woman, due to the fact that she is getting older, and nothing seems to be going right for her.
The interactions between all of the characters was entertaining and consistently comical, with a rather heavy dose of tastlessness. Where, "Ringmaster," ran into problems, I think, was simply in the slight story, which is pretty forgettable, and in the climax, in which drama and moralizing takes over. Although there is a surprisingly truthful conversation between Pressly and Hagan late in the picture, a final speech given by Springer rang totally false. It was as if Springer wanted to tell the world a meaningful reason why he has stuck with his show for so long, when everyone knows it is only because it is outrageous and he has fun with it. His reasoning goes no further than that, and so his speech really put a damper on the fast and humorous pace that came before.
What it all comes down to is that, "Ringmaster," is an overall fun way to spend an hour and a half, but it is nothing special. Nothing occurs in the film to really buoy it over into what I would actually consider a very good comedy, but it is a pleasant one. It would help considerably if you didn't have to pay the admissions price to go see it.
©1998 by Dustin Putman