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The Number 23

A movie starring Jim Carrey

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Jumping to some seriously deadly conclusions.

  • Dec 5, 2010
* out of ****

If you read my review for "The Lost Boys", then you'll remember that at the end of my review, I said, "Thanks Joel Schumacher. But I still hate you." Why did I say this? Well, take a good look at "The Number 23", which is directed by Schumacher, and you'll see why. There is indeed such thing as the 23 Enigma, but that doesn't make the film any better. Rather than substance (or even style), "The Number 23" finds Schumacher using ideas rather than people to make his film. It's almost as if the obsession of Walter is inferior to that of the director's himself. Schumacher almost dedicates his time entirely to the raw obsession over a single number, and therefore does everything else last minute. I imagine that he said exactly this: "Hey, instead of getting a man who's used to psychological thrillers, let's get Jim Carrey!" Or maybe he even said, "Screw experienced writers! Let's get someone who REALLY knows how to go overboard with nonsense!" That's basically what he did, and in result he got "The Number 23". Don't get me wrong, it fits nicely into Schumacher's filmography, which isn't that great to begin with. Needless to say, this is neither his or not his type of film. It's something that simply shouldn't have been made unless the filmmakers could back up their ideas with decent-to-solid substance. Sadly, this film isn't good enough, and therefore Schumacher's own number may come up sooner than planned. If he's going to continue ruining semi-decent premises and making stuff that's pretentiously confusing, then I don't want him to make anything at all. "The Lost Boys" saw him doing a decent job with filmmaking, although it was never spectacular. However, looking back on "The Lost Boys", you've got to give the guy some credit. I mean, THIS is unthinkably maddening compared to Schumacher's "Boys". That was a film which required simplicity, and this film was the complete opposite. This particular film requires complexity, and while to some it may be hidden beneath the cheesiness of the formula, it's just not happening here. What's most frustrating of all is that the film consistently tortures the audience by trying to make a bad film creepy via a pretty solid soundtrack. It's a pain in the ass, really. So I can't really recommend it to anyone.

The 23 Enigma does exist. It exists as much in reality as it does in this film, but that's just beyond the point. So Walter Sparrow is a local dog catcher who is bit by a particularly feisty pup who leads him to a gravestone (which is of course, of importance to the story). Instead of shooting the pup, Sparrow lets it go for now. It's the day of Walter's birthday, and he has a "date" with his wife Agatha. Walter's wife purchases a book found in a local bookstore for his birthday, and Walter is immediately hooked. This particular book is about one man's obsession with the number "23", and how it seemed to be coming for him. As Walter reads on, he begins to come to a conclusion: This book is a mimic of his lifetime. Have you ever felt that a book was literally "written for you" or even "written about you"? Well, just ask Walter. He sure has. There is of course no ending to the book (yet), so Walter begins to fear that the supposed fate of the book's character may indeed be his own. Then Walter plunges into a dark state of psychological madness and begins to do what other victims of the number would do. Soon, his son Robin is joining in on the psychological fun, and he looks for answers in all the right (and wrong) places. There's a load of twists thrown in to keep the audience "entertained", and I feel no need to spoil them, since I assume you already know them by now. The point is, it's just not entertaining. Nor is it engaging, pleasurable, or intelligent. It may try to be more thoughtful than most movies of its year, but even the less thoughtful ones tend to be better. Sometimes it's better to be simple, although like I said, this film just can't settle for being simple. And since writer Fernley Phillips is a new-comer (and at this point, hopefully staying that way), I can somewhat see why "The Number 23" is such a poorly crafted experience. It's more like a bad experiment than a complete film. The only difference is that I don't want more after seeing the failure that is the experiment. It was a pain to watch as it was.

There's something likable about Jim Carrey in his more serious roles, but it's not present here. In "The Number 23", he plays a psychologically madman rather than a childish man-clown. He's just not fit for this role, and it shows. Carrey just looks so awkward in this film. He never seems happy or content with what he's doing, and therefore he feels as lost as the actual film. He is at times overly sentimental and never intense enough to satisfy. Well, this is indeed what happens when you get a comedy regular to star in a Rated R thriller. Schumacher should have known that. But apparently he didn't. Virginia Madsen stars as the unassuming wife of Carrey's character, and is also very mis-cast. As she may be crucial to the story, her role really didn't call for much. Therefore they just picked "someone" and therefore got "someone". Apparently that someone was Virginia Madsen. Logan Lerman is as pathetic as ever, playing his usual annoying self in a movie where the only difference is the name of his character. Poor old Danny Huston gets the same treatment as well. And the shame is, after seeing "Children of Men", I know that he can be a good actor. But it doesn't work here. That's the bottom line.

Back in '07, I may have anticipated this film because it looked….how do I put this? I'll say….it looked "intriguing". Indeed it did. A film about the 23 Enigma should at least hold my interest for a good amount of time, right? Well, I would have been VERY disappointed. I would not have been able to describe my hatred for Schumacher at the moment, although thankfully I can now. Here's how much I hate Schumacher for this: A lot. While the film's visuals aren't absolutely revolting, the film still doesn't feel comfortable throughout. It's a mess of blandness and old fashion confusion. It's a film which is actually "confusing", but in a very bad way. Psychological thriller? I think not. Just because it features Jim Carrey going mad in front of a camera does not make it a good or worthy psychological thriller. In fact, that just makes it anything but. "The Number 23" is at its worst when it's trying to be intelligent, which is pretty much non-stop. How can something be intelligent when you're so busy smirking at how pretentious it is? I mean, did Schumacher REALLY think this would work? Financially, maybe. But otherwise, definitely not. It makes me think that Schumacher did it for the money and nothing else. There is however one good thing about this movie. To keep things "cool" and "creepy", the film makes good use of its soundtrack. While it doesn't make anything more or less creepy, I still thought the soundtrack was that one thing in a film that is well done. Aside from that, you'd have to be as crazy as Walter to take this film seriously.

If anything, "The Number 23" does what it wants to do. It drives us all completely mad until we want to either walk away or spit at the screen. Perhaps it escapes being one of the worst films of all time by a long shot, but it's still no good. I'm not going to say that it's any better than most thrillers, since there are PLENTY of good thrillers out there. This is not one of them. "The Number 23" tries to be thrilling, haunting, frightening, and psychologically mad at the same time. It is indeed mad, but in the worst of ways. In the ends, I'll try to forget it, because that's all it deserves out of it. The film is an insult to my intelligence, and is all too easy to decipher. No, I'm not asking for a potentially good remake. And no, I'm not saying that this is the worst film of all time. But you know what; I really did not enjoy myself while watching it. I know, it's not supposed to be all "happy", but I'm not asking it to be. Hell, all I'm asking is that Schumacher either makes the film fun to watch or doesn't make it at all. I guess Schumacher came closer to not making a movie at all, since what he has "crafted" is not a film, but rather an allusion. In that sense, it might as well be a figment of your imagination. And that's that. Don't waste your time getting your hair all tangled in this film. It has no depth. No emotion. No mystery. Only stupidity.

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December 06, 2010
I thought this was a good enough movie from what I remember, although I agree with what your saying mostly. I must admit that I didn't mind Carrey in the lead role here, I thought he did a good enough job for his first attempt at this kind of film.
December 06, 2010
That's cool. I know there are those who admire it. I hope I did not offend your opinion at all with my review, because that was not my intent.
December 06, 2010
Not at all, I actually have been really enjoying your reviews. Each one has been excellent.
More The Number 23 reviews
review by . May 11, 2010
Obsession is a dark emotion that can destroy a person's soul....
Obsession is a disease, a dark fleeting sensation that can drive one person to do things that they normally would not do, driving the individual to the brink of insanity that can destroy the person’s life and turn them into a monster. In Joel Schumacher's grim psychological noir delves deep into  the physical and mental damage of how  one man's obsession  almost  destroyed everyone he loved and cared for and how he suffers at the hands of  a decade old  …
Quick Tip by . June 10, 2010
Great movie! I thought it was more of a thriller, I liked the twists and turns in the movie and the ending was great! I recommend this movie to any type of movie watcher!
Quick Tip by . May 11, 2010
A dark, disturbing psychological noir that raises potent and daring questions about the damage and cause of obsession.
review by . August 30, 2007
posted in Movie Hype
Maybe it was to be expected that Schumacher, who hasn't really made a very satisfying film since the mid 90s, would gravitate to material like this that would at least allow him some time to exercise his 'weird' directorial chops. And really, there is some potential in this as well; Carrey's dog-catcher protagonist is given a book on his birthday (which is on 2/3) called the Number 23, which deals with a sax-playing detective with a dark past who gets involved with an even darker, more sadistic …
About the reviewer
Ryan J. Marshall ()
Ranked #3
It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … more
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In Joel Schumacher's psychological thriller THE NUMBER 23, Jim Carrey takes on another dramatic role. Carrey's character is similar to his roles in THE TRUMAN SHOW and ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND: he portrays an average man thrust into quite extraordinary situations after a series of strange events cause him to question everything he's ever taken for granted. On his birthday, Walter Sparrow is given a mysterious and tattered book called THE NUMBER 23 by his loving wife, Agatha (Virginia Madsen). As Walter reads the book, he quickly notices its alarming similarities to his own life. Rather than stop reading, he continues, unknowingly inviting the book to take over his life. The deeper Walter gets into the plot, the more he sees himself in its protagonist, Fingerling, whom we see through highly stylized sequences in which Carrey appears as the seedy detective character. Madsen is also present in these scenes, cast as Fingerling's pain-loving girlfriend Fabrizia. As Fingerling and Fabrizia's love...
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Director: Joel Schumacher
Genre: Action, Adventure
Release Date: February 23, 2007
MPAA Rating: R
Screen Writer: Fernley Phillips
DVD Release Date: July 24, 2007
Runtime: 1hr 37min
Studio: New Line Home Video
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