Rooted in nutty numerology and Jim Carrey's desire to prove he's capable of more than pulling rubbery faces and contorting his lanky frame into comical configurations, Joel Schumacher's trippy psychological thriller, from Fernley Phillips' original screenplay, squanders a promising premise and a lot of cool special effects on a story that gets more ridiculous and less involving with each passing minute.
Middle-aged dogcatcher Walter Paul Sparrow (Carrey) is an ordinary guy living a blissfully unexceptional life until a rogue number comes along and blows everything to hell. The number is, of course, 23, and it worms its way into Walter's brain via a privately printed novel by one "Topsy Kretts" that his wife, Agatha (Virginia Madsen), casually picks up at a used-book store. Kretts' "The Number 23" is a sort of thriller whose hard-boiled narrative plays out in a series of highly stylized, computer-generated noirish tableaux accompanied by Walter's voice-over narration as he reads from the book. Told in the first person by tattooed, sax-playing Detective Fingerling (also Carrey), it chronicles his growing obsession with the "23 enigma," to which he's introduced by the flaky "suicide blonde" (Lynn Collins), a deeply troubled tootsie who hurls herself from a window rather than face a world in which everything can be added up or divided down to 23. Fingerling catches her digital mania, and it drives him to murder his oversexed lover, Fabrizia (Madsen again, in a black wig) and frame her oily lover (Danny Huston) for the crime. What freaks out Walter is that so many of the book's details correspond to his own life and experience... except for all the murder and tomcatting around, of course. Troubled that Walter is developing his own unhealthy fixation, Agatha turns to her friend Isaac (also Huston), to talk some sense into him. But Walter is convinced that there's more to the book than word games and tricks with numbers, especially when he discovers that back in 1991 a girl named Laura Tollins was murdered under circumstances suspiciously like those in the book, apparently by college professor Kyle Flinch (Mark Pellegrino). Now nothing will stop him from getting to the bottom of the ties that bind him to the mysterious novel and the mystical numeral.
Leaving aside the fact that the "23 enigma" is a prank cooked up by Discordians to mess with the heads of the credulous, this leaden thriller is a study in missed opportunities. What could have been a spooky, mind-bending freak-out — numbers, after all, are slippery imps, holding out the promise of absolute answers yet infinitely vulnerable to fiddling and sneaky prestidigitation — is pummeled into faux-pulp ludicrousness. And it has to rank with the least satisfying conclusions of all time: It makes nonsense of a story that made no sense to begin with.
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- Released: 2007
- Rating: R
- Review: Rooted in nutty numerology and Jim Carrey's desire to prove he's capable of more than pulling rubbery faces and contorting his lanky frame into comical configurations, Joel Schumacher's trippy psychological thriller, from Fernley Phillips' original screenp… (more)