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Jerry's Kids

[whitespace] Jerry Springer Media Cowboy: Jerry Springer is Jerry Springer in 'Ringmaster.'

John Johnson

'Ringmaster' gives poor folks a shot

By Richard von Busack

IT ISN'T FOR the carriage trade, to say the least. Ringmaster, starring Jerry Springer as himself, has the inevitability of soft-core porn. In Ringmaster, no woman can resist any man, no matter how blunt the come-on or how whiskery the man. This promiscuity leads to instant conflict ("This trailer ain't big enough for the three of us"). A wild girl named Angel (Jaime Pressly) follows her route in life from double-wide to motel (as a housekeeper) to check-cashing liquor store. In her spare time, she sleeps with her mom's husband. Her mom, the aspiring Jerry Springer guest Connie, is played by the first-rate Molly Hagan, who could give Jennifer Jason Leigh about 100 lessons in the authentic portrayal of white trash.

Springer himself reprises his usual shtick, shaking up people like bugs in a jar and then preaching over them after they fight. Still, the justification Springer makes through director Neil Abramson deserves a hearing. Springer operates one of the only venues in which the poor can be on the medium of the rich without handcuffs on their wrists. Fiction writers have been selling poor-folk experiences to the bourgeoisie ever since there was a bourgeoisie. Given a chance to enact their own drama on national TV, Springer's stars cut out the middleman. The film is better than Gummo and more disconcerting than Happiness; the use of scuzzy San Fernando Valley locations to fake out Florida is inspired. Sorry we haven't reviewed this until now, but no real Jerry fan would dream of seeing this movie anywhere but the 99-cent theater anyway.

Ringmaster (R; 95 min.), directed by Neil Abramson, written by Jon Bernstein, photographed by Russell Lyster and starring Jerry Springer, Jaime Pressly and Molly Hagan.

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From the December 17-23, 1998 issue of Metro.

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