Directed by Joel Schumacher
Well, if nothing else comes out of The Number 23, I can safely say it’s made Joel Schumacher no longer known to me only as the man who put nipples on the batsuit.
Not that the film is transcendental or wondrous enough to wipe the memory clean of Schumacher’s past mistakes, but it’s enough of a switch in both style and storytelling to allow me to give him a second chance.
How big-hearted I am.
Jim Carrey stars as Walter Sparrow, a normal guy with a pretty damn normal life. Of course there is the small issue of the fact that he has no friends other than his wife Agatha (Madsen) and his son Robin (Lerman), but I guess a good home life can make up for a lot of shortcomings in the rest of your existence. He works as an animal control officer (I’m sorry but the parallels to Ace Ventura end there) and one day a last-minute call to chase an aggressive dog makes him late to meet his wife for a birthday celebration. His birthday, I should note here, is on February 3rd.
Because of his tardiness, Agatha wanders into a local bookshop, her attention focused on the titular book. For some reason she thinks Walter will enjoy it, buys it for him, and a whole mess of problems begin. The book has way too many similarities to his own life for comfort aside from the fact that the narrator, Fingerling (also played by a haggard-up Carrey in noir fantasy settings) is a hard-nosed detective straight out of the 40’s. When Fingerling meets a girl on the verge of suicide because of the number 23, Walter begins to see the same pattern in his everyday life, from the letters of his name down to his social security number and street address.
As Walter’s life becomes more and more eerily similar to that of Fingerling’s, everything begins to unravel around him until he finally figures out that the whole book is one giant clue leading to the location of a missing girl’s body. Though I had some hopes there would be a cosmic showdown at some point (the mention of the number of the beast, 2 divided by 3 is .666, in the trailer really perked my ears up), instead the film comes down to a whodunit with a slightly different take on the unfolding events because of the seemingly malevolent number.
The biggest issue with The Number 23 isn’t the plot, the writing, or even the directing; it’s Jim Carrey. Though I would really love to see him really hit one out of the park someday in a serious thriller, this is just not the one for him. I’ve always said that an actor is only as good as his director, but with Carrey something tells me he’s at the level of stardom that few directors would be able to mold him into anything other than what he thinks the role should be like. He never fully clicked with me as a tortured or even completely serious character on any level, which was especially true when he donned the Fingerling persona, and that’s something that will likely take most viewers right out of the film.
Other than Carrey’s turn as the lead, though, The Number 23 isn’t a bad flick at all. I have to admit I didn’t see the ending coming (don’t think that means it was effectively concealed; I’m apparently one of the only people that didn’t see the end of The Sixth Sense a mile away), and there are enough twists and turns throughout to leave you wondering just what’s really going on and, most importantly, who wrote the damn book in the first place. Believe it or not, Topsey Krett (say it out loud a few times) is not a real name. The problem is that without a strong lead for a film like this, you don’t really have a lot to go on, so it’s marked decidedly lower for that
I can say I was never bored with The Number 23, save for during the over-long explanation of everything that really happened at the end (which does create a few logic holes but nothing painful), so I guess that’s a good sign that it works as a piece of entertainment if nothing else. With a more believable lead it could’ve worked a lot better, however; it’s a shame they seemed more interested in getting a “name” than someone who was better suited for the role.
Now I’m also looking for the number 23 in my everyday life, which is kinda fun so far. Nothing with my birthday or social security number works, but I did eat at Subway before the film, which is located at … 230 Tremont St. Spooky! For an even better 23 connection, be sure to listen to the latest Dinner for Fiends to see just how far Foy will go to come up with a pattern!
3 out of 5