The Number 23

The Number 23


Reviewed by: Scott Macdonald

The Number 23 might be more fun to write about than sit through.

Improbability isn't the death of a thriller, but often cripples it. Joel Schumacher's flair for theatrical silliness continues in this horribly unlikely, indulgent murder mystery, the outcome of which you're likely to guess at least half an hour before the end.

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Jim Carrey stars as dog catcher Walter Sparrow, who lives with his wife (Virginia Madsen) and son (Logan Lerman), and also enjoys reading detective stories - in a cheery nod to the Ace Ventura flicks, no doubt. His mild mannered existence is compounded by his wife's purchase of a red, hand-finished book, entitled The Number 23 by Topsey Krett (say it out loud!) and as he becomes absorbed in this creaky little whodunit we are sent along dual storylines, the literary and the literal, as he picks up and puts down the book.

The incarnation of the fictional dreamscape is rather clever, showy and pulpy at the same time, aided by Requiem For A Dream's cinematographer Matthew Libatique. Eventually, it becomes stupid, as the detective is exposed as a screaming nutcase and Schumacher ramps up the visuals until they resemble hyperkinetic anime, blended with Max Payne's videogame pulp noir, while Fernley Phillips's story slowly drowns.

Viewers are soaked in various numerological permutations and combinations of the eponymous digits in pretty much every scene. It is like being locked in a padded cell with a raving loony, without volume control. And yet, with all the signs, letters and numbers, I began to feel a little obsessed, too. The film dovetails several slender plot threads, with first-time screenwriter Phillips having a bit of fun with madness and authorship. However, you are likely to be more numbed by it than interested and more confused than involved.

The worst aspect is the hopeless miscasting of Carrey. He may have been the highlight of Schumacher's earlier phantasmagoric Batman Forever, but here he cannot convince as a tortured and obsessed ordinary Joe - his James Stewart-like everyday qualities are better served in The Truman Show. Madsen is as dependable as always, continuing her run of loving and intelligent women with sunshine sex appeal. Nice to see former Lara Croft model and Verhoeven victim Rhona Mitra show up as a gorgeous corpse-to-be.

Early on, Sparrow rejects the book.

"Have some writer fill my head with nonsense?," he asks. "I'll wait for the movie."

You have a choice. Watch the movie and mess up your head. Or wait for Ace Ventura 3: All Is Forgiven.

Reviewed on: 26 Feb 2007
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Parallel murder mysteries have mathematical and literary connotations - perhaps.
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Director: Joel Schumacher

Writer: Fernley Phillips

Starring: Jim Carrey, Virginia Madsen, Danny Huston, Logan Lerman, Lynn Collins, Rhona Mitra, Michelle Arthur, Mark Pellegrino

Year: 2007

Runtime: 95 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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