THE NUMBER 23: 1 ½ STARS
Julius Caesar was allegedly stabbed twenty-three times when he was assassinated. Psalms, the longest book of the Bible, is the 23rd book of the Old Testament. The regular human body temperature is 98.6 (9+8+6=23). According to the Dr Pepper company website, the soft drink “is a unique blend of 23 flavors”. The new Jim Carrey movie is the 23rd project Joel Schumacher has directed, counting both his film and television work. Throughout history the number 23 has been associated with mystery. Numerologists believe that like the digits 7 and 13, which also carry some baggage, the number 23 has a notorious past. Is it all coincidence or is there really an enigma surrounding the numeral?
In the new psychological thriller, The Number 23, Jim Carrey plays dogcatcher and happily married man Walter Sparrow, who is convinced that the number has a grip on his life. His life seems ideal until the day of his thirty-second birthday when a strange dog leads him on a chase to a mysterious cemetery, biting him on the arm before disappearing.
The incident with the dog makes him late to pick up his wife after work. She kills time by browsing through a used bookstore where she finds a book called The Number 23. She buys it for him and soon he becomes obsessed with the novel, seeing similarities between his own life and the story’s main character. Soon he is consumed by it, seeing the influence of the mystical number everywhere and it leads him down a rabbit hole that threatens his sanity and the well being of his family.
If you’re a fan of Carrey’s comedies, then maybe you should stay home and rent Dumb and Dumber instead of laying down your cash for this overly dramatic and campy thriller. Carrey’s “man on the brink” routine isn’t believable, and 23 minutes into the film I knew his overblown performance was pushing it off the rails. Sparrow is a dual role. Regular obsessed guy with a nice family before cracking open the book; grimacing tattooed alter ego afterwards. Neither characterization rings true. He seems out of his league, and no amount of mugging for the camera is going to fix this monumental piece of miscasting.
The story is kind of silly, but that hasn’t stopped other supernatural thrillers from taking flight. The thing that grounds The Number 23 is the complete lack of reasonable human behavior in the story. Instead of reacting with fear or alarm that the family’s breadwinner has lost his mind, his wife (played by Virginia Madsen) and young son totally play along. I don’t know about you, but if my dad asked me to go and dig up a skeleton with him, I might ask a few questions first.
Joel Schumacher directs with his usual stylish eye for detail, but his technique is no match for this overacted hokum.