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Overall Rating

Awesome: 6.58%
Worth A Look: 2.63%
Average: 14.47%
Pretty Bad56.58%
Total Crap: 19.74%

8 reviews, 28 user ratings

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Number 23, The
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by Erik Childress

"It Worked Out Pretty Well For Ryne Sandberg & Michael Jordan."
2 stars

For all the grief we give Joel Schumacher over his involvement with the Batman films and a resume that you can pick apart from “blah” to “eh”, there are standouts to a genre that the director has found a niche in. Distracting us from the melodramatic weepies (St. Elmo’s Fire, Dying Young), Grisham adaptations (The Client, A Time To Kill) and all-out catastrophes (Batman & Robin, The Phantom of the Opera) are some pretty interesting examinations of men’s battles with obsessions and their own demons. Flatliners, Falling Down, Phone Booth and the underrated 8MM are all solid thrillers that Schumacher has commanded with efficiency and unhacked expertise. Jim Carrey was originally supposed to work with Schumacher a second time (after Batman Forever) on Phone Booth, but had to drop out over scheduling conflicts that somehow prevented him from spending a few days inside one outdoor location. Possibly regretting the move, Carrey must have jumped at the chance to reteam with Schumacher on another high-concept obsessive thriller. But while conspiracy theorists search for the ultimate meaning of the integer at the center of it, someone should have paid more attention to the words.

Carrey plays Walter Sparrow, a bored-at-work animal catcher with a loving wife (Virginia Madsen) and a teenage son (Logan Lerman) who still looks up to him. In the last minute of his latest shift, Walter chases down a bulldog who first leads him to a cemetery and then gives him a bite for his efforts. As fate would have it, Walter is late picking up the wife. So late that it apparently gives her time to read an entire book lying front and center in a bookshop with no employees. It’s Topsy Kretts’ The Number 23 and she buys it for Walter, who begins noticing some odd coincidences between his childhood and that of the fictional detective, Fingerling.

Carrey also gets to play Fingerling as he reads the story to us. The darker version of Walter with his slicked back hair, black clothing and submissive to the kinky sexual desires of Fabrizia (also played by Madsen) enters the case of a suicidal blonde who has all but succumbed to the freakish frequency of the dreaded number 23. Beyond its positive history with Chicago sports heroes (Sandberg, Jordan, Devin Hester), it seems any configuration of the number (forward and reverse) is enough to drive those looking – insane enough to find it anywhere throughout history. Walter himself begins the writing-on-the-wall phase of obsessive compulsives but just as quickly does a 230 from searching for the number to seeking out the book’s author to solve this personal connection he can’t escape.

Numbers driving people nuts is always an interesting anomaly of how the most simplistic of things and potentially the most useful (if you watch a certain FBI show on CBS) can scramble the brain. Just ask John Nash. Like most answers in life though, The Number 23 takes a three-fold approach towards the audience keeping their sanity. At first, it’s freaky to piece together the connections of Hiroshima, the amount of chromosomes passed from parents-to-child or Julius Caesar’s stab count. Then its fun to begin applying it to your own life as you utilize the note-passing codes you learned in first grade. Then it becomes ridiculous in the manner of how the number is found, earning its title as the cosmic number of coincidence.

With so many equally fascinating and ludicrous scenarios to embrace, it’s a shame that another debut screenwriter gets to make his name on a story that wastes a logline pitch by steering itself into the sort of literal stalemate plagued by 90% of the wannabe high concepts put in play these days. Instead of exploring a more apocalyptic consequence of the signs Walter is seeing, Fernley Phillips takes us on a journey of self-discovery that raises far more questions than it provides answers (and not in a pretentious Lynchian kinda way.) As the book’s secrets begin to come into focus (thanks to convenient syllable emphasis) we get a roving triplicate of suspect accusations before settling in on a final revelation so arbitrary its only bit of ingenuity is that it doesn’t involve a dream, purgatory or multiple personalities. Technically.

Faster than you can sing Celine Dion’s “It’s All Coming Back To Me Now” (or Meat Loaf’s “epic” cover of it), you’re likely to wonder about the mixed clues Schumacher and Phillips offers up to us. They throw us a bone in the potentially mystical bulldog but dangle another’s identity only by name until their Agatha Christie-like disclosure. The almost instantaneous cover-up of one action leads a character almost to their demise by refusing to speak their peace for no other reason but for us to buy them as the villain – a trait contagious to the knowledge of each suspect. A ridiculous flashback to the first meeting of two characters implicates one of them as either the most trusting person on the planet or has such a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy about dating it makes Cara Seymour’s return trip to the American Psycho look reasonable by comparison.

Schumacher is revisiting the themes he made better use of in Flatliners and doing it through a more commercially-viable version sort of David Lynch’s Lost Highway and its exploration of kaleidoscopic duality Those films were seven years apart (1990 & 1997) and this film was made sixteen years after Flatliners. 16 + 7 = 23. Ooooh, spooky. Carrey is just fine in the lead, helping Schumacher keep it just left of laughable histrionics. But Fernley’s script reeks of amateurish inconsistencies from his pointless inflections about fate to characters acting with knowledge they couldn’t possibly have had at the times they overreact in a film notable more for its UNDERreaction to certain behaviors. After it’s final bible passage splashes across the screen with all the subtlety of Kevin McCarthy screaming “YOU’RE NEXT”, I immediately thought of the number’s significance to my own existence. Born on June 29 and subtracting 29 from the sixth month I get 23. Does that make it a blessing or a curse than I’m sitting here reviewing The Number 23 instead of writing better scripts than it?

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originally posted: 02/23/07 16:06:48
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User Comments

8/31/17 brian My street address has 23 characters. So? 2 stars
10/18/09 Matt You can't take Jim from Ace Ventura's comedy to this complete garbage ! I mean WTF... 1 stars
2/10/09 Peter North this movie sucks donkey ass - ha, 23 letters... 1 stars
10/19/08 Samantha Pruitt Jim Carey does a good job but the story is lame! 3 stars
7/19/08 Shaun Wallner A different side of Jim Carrey. 3 stars
6/12/08 DK Over stylised and pappy thriller. Carrey's not bad though 2 stars
1/27/08 mr.mike Sorry , Jim and Joel but it was.....not good. 2 stars
9/17/07 K. Sear Typical pseudo-original crap. 1 stars
8/30/07 Indrid Cold Silly and predictable, but mostly solid. Not sure why it got such horrendous reviews. 3 stars
8/12/07 tejdipty a mind blowing movie grt direction n makin n suspence! 5 stars
8/01/07 Ron just shows, Jim carey should stick to comedy 2 stars
7/28/07 fools♫gold Definitely something average here; I wish I gave "The Tenant" a 2/5. But really, it's nice. 3 stars
4/27/07 Marcus The opening credits are great and after that its all downhill 1 stars
4/18/07 Lindz It was the best movie ever! I loved it! 5 stars
4/05/07 William Goss Fascinating, if only to see how deep they'll dig a hole they can't escape from. 2 stars
3/31/07 Mike Perhaps the dumbest move ever. Incredibly ridiculous. Left very disappointed. 2hrs of pain! 1 stars
3/28/07 Amanda i think this was a great movie! from beginning to the end! 5 stars
3/14/07 Logan Carrey serious? QUE BUENO! 5 stars
3/11/07 Alice SUCKS BIGTIME 1 stars
3/09/07 Tvel Great! The #23 has signigicance to the ending some critics missed it 5 stars
3/06/07 Ole Man Bourbon Pretty decent, til the end. Carey's performance was up and down, all over the place. 3 stars
2/28/07 Jennifer Spry Jim, what were you thinking? This certainly won't get you an Oscar nod! 2 stars
2/26/07 Donny M I thought it was original. Entertaining 4 stars
2/26/07 Felix This one might have been inspired by the very good (german) movie "23" from 1998. 2 stars
2/26/07 psycho you suck 1 stars
2/25/07 Sammeh It's a pretty decent movie. It feels pretty slow and drags out some, but its worth seeing 4 stars
2/24/07 Mere Great opening credits...downhill from there. 1 stars
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  23-Feb-2007 (R)
  DVD: 24-Jul-2007

  23-Feb-2007 (15)
  DVD: 23-Jul-2007

  25-Apr-2007 (MA)

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