The Number 23 (2007)

Joel Schumacher

STARRINGJim Carrey - Walter Sparrow/Fingerling
Virginia Madsen - Agatha Sparrow/Fabrizia
Logan Lerman - Robin Sparrow
Danny Huston - Issac French/Dr. Miles Phoenix

Year - 2007

Score - 2 Howls Outta 4

Execution - the act or mode or result of performance. It's the way something is done that will most likely lead to the most satisfactory, or just, conclusion. Some films have a great handle on executing their premises. Others don't seem to have that grasp, making the film leaving you with that feeling of something missing. I remember watching the trailer and TV spots for THE NUMBER 23, with all its ways of using math to lead into answers that involve the number 23. Such a cool idea that hasn't really been done before, this could lead into a very memorable movie. While I wasn't too sure with Schumacher at the helm and Carrey doing a serious thriller, I felt there was no way anyone could mess the premise up and leave me hanging. But then again, Hollywood is a really funny place, as THE NUMBER 23 left me with more questions than answers.

Walter Sparrow (Jim Carrey) is an animal control officer who doesn't really seem to like his job. On his birthday, he gets bit on the job by a dog named Ned, who begins to follow Walter everywhere he goes. The bite causes Walter to be late to meet up with his wife, Agatha (Virginia Madsen). While she waits for Walter, Agatha enters a bookstore and finds this red little book called "The Number 23". Finding it intriguing, Agatha gives Walter the book as a birthday present. Walter begins to read the book, suddenly becoming immersed into the story and becoming obsessed with all the possibilities of the number 23. Not only does the obsession affect his home life, Walter finds connections in the book relating to his own life, imagining himself to be the detective in the book and his wife as the "femme fatale". Wanting to understand and end his obsession with "23", Walter and family try to look for the author of the book, only to find out that the truth is closer than he thinks.

Color me disappointed in 23 different hues. A really interesting premise turns into a bit-above average thriller. It's kind of sad because the beginning of the film was really good in setting up the rest of the film, yet by the middle of the film, I started to care less and less about the truth behind "The Number 23". The fantasy sequences based on the book were cool in the beginning, but got really tacky towards the end, ruining the pacing and flow of the film. By the end of the film anyway, those fantasy sequences had nothing to really do with the reveal of the book and were just really used as a way for Schumacher to provide us with a visually beautiful film [which it was, by the way]. I wish the film had focused more on present time because that's where the story was the most interesting and could have created a better film as a whole. And the characters were really nonchalant about Walter's incredibly obsessive behavior of the damn number. I mean, his wife saw Walter write "KILL HER" on his arm, yet she acted like he had those words there his entire life. And the way the son reacted was pretty weird. He agreed with Walter a bit too quickly, in my opinion. If it were me, I would have called the psychiatric ward and have him locked in a white padded room. The reactions of these characters to the entire thing was pretty fake and not believable at all.

And then there's the "truth" behind the book. While I didn't exactly figure it out, I was pretty close. Totally uncreative and totally out of left field. It was like the film dropped the reveal on my lap and said, "There it is! Now do something with it!" Just seemed like something that was made up at the last minute just to explain "The Number 23" in a span of 5 minutes. And I still didn't understand why 23 was such a powerful number that these people would take precious time out of their lives to obsess over it. Yeah, a lot of freaky things happened on the 23th or added up to 23. And yeah, it's a neat idea and pretty scary if you think about it. But nothing was done with it and the number 23 was just used as a prop to move the story along. We know what 7 means. We know what 13 means. Hell, most of us are afraid of 666. If more time was given to explain why everything added up to 23, I'd care about the number more. But that never happened and in that sense, the film and script left me flat.

Joel Schumacher, the director who many people claimed to have murdered the BATMAN franchise before BATMAN BEGINS brought it back to its rightful glory, actually does a good job directing THE NUMBER 23. It's visually beautiful [especially the flashback/noir scenes] and Schumacher actually created some kind of creepy-ish mood for the film. I also liked that shaky cam bit when the truth was revealed [great metaphoric use of direction relating to one of the characters]. It was a very colorful and very energetic film from beginning to end. Not his best direction [I think THE LOST BOYS and PHONE BOOTH are his best actually], but he surprised me at how well he took charge with this film. Too bad the story wasn't all that great, but at least Schumacher made the film more watchable than it had any right to be.

The acting was pretty good in the film too. Jim Carrey surprised me at how well he was here. He wasn't perfect but he can be a dramatic actor when he works for it [ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND proved that]. He was very believable as a man obsessed and paranoid over the number 23, even becoming a bit creepy towards the end with his ticks and really serious facial expressions. If the script were better, I believe Carrey would have been able to display more of his acting chops. But Carrey was limited, yet even a limited Carrey is a good Carrey and he actually pulled me into the film more than I wanted to be. I thought the whole detective portrayal was a bit farfetched for Carrey in certain scenes, but he made it work. Great voiceover work from Carrey as well, although most of what he said could have been put into actually dialogue with other people.

Virginia Madsen was iffy as usual. I really don't know what to say about her performance. Mediocre, maybe? I think she underplayed the part a bit too much as Carrey's wife. Or maybe it was how her character was written, I don't know. She was trying to be dramatic and I didn't really believe her portrayal of a wife of an obsessed man. Her reactions were a bit off and she tries to speak as if she wants to be seen as sexy. I don't know, it was like she didn't give a damn how she would look in this film. Well Virginia Madsen, I didn't give a damn about your acting skills either. So there ya go.

The rest of the actors were decent. Logan Lerman [of THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT and JACK AND BOBBY fame] was good as the son. His character was a bit naive [even for a teenager] but what he did with the script was very good and I think he'll have a good future ahead of him. Danny Huston as the psychiatrist friend was okay. Wasn't really sure what his deal was really. And the very beautiful Rhona Mitra as Laura - va-va-va-VOOM! She didn't do much but damn it if I didn't love looking at her. What a hottie! Whoo! Call me...

I was expecting more out of THE NUMBER 23. This is one of those cases where the film has a great idea but is not executed properly. Just an average film that has its share of moments. At least it was watchable with some great visual sequences and a very good performance by Jim Carrey. And you do start thinking of ways to create the number 23 in your own life. Good for a rental, but not-so-much for a buy. Disappointing, yet okay, film.

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