The Number 23 Review
By Shawn McKenzie 02/26/2007
Walter Sparrow (Jim Carrey) is a dogcatcher who works with the Department of Animal Control and has a wife named Agatha (Virginia Madsen), who owns a cake shop, and they have a teenage son named Robin (Logan Lerman.) As the movie begins, Walter is sent on an assignment by the Animal Control dispatcher, Sybil (Michelle Arthur)…a woman who had earlier hit on him at a Christmas party, but he turned down…to capture a stray French bulldog by the name of Ned. The dog bites him on the arm…causing him to have to visit the Animal Control behavioral psychologist Dr. Alice Mortimer (Patricia Belcher) after he has treated his wounds. She determines that Walter isn’t traumatized by the incident and that he can go home to recuperate from the bite. Unfortunately, because of the incident, he is late to pick up Agatha to celebrate his own birthday. In the meantime, while waiting for Walter, Agatha goes into a used bookstore where she finds a short novel called The Number 23 by an author named Topsy Kretts who seems obsessed with the titular number. She decides to buy it and give it to Walter as a present. He reads it, and for some reason, he feels a sense of déjà vu, because he finds similarities between himself and the book’s main character…a detective named Fingerling (also Jim Carrey.) Despite the fact that Fingerling is tattooed up and plays a saxophone, Walter starts seeing similarities everywhere…all involving the number 23. Fingerling is having an affair with a sexy femme fatale named Fabrizia (also Virginia Madsen) who’s into kinky sex involving having him pretend to stab her. She’s also turned on by crime scenes, such as the one involving a widow named Mrs. Isabel Dobkins, a.k.a. the Suicide Blonde (Lynn Collins), who is so obsessed with the number 23 that it leads her to live up to her nickname. Fingerling actually stabs Fabrizia this time for real, as well as her psychiatrist lover Dr. Miles Phoenix (Danny Huston)…mainly because he has caught the Suicide Blonde’s “23” fever. Walter also becomes obsessed with the number, so he goes to Agatha’s teacher friend Professor Isaac French (also Danny Huston) who tells him that the number is just that…a number. There is nothing supernatural or freaky about it. Meanwhile, Walter spots Ned again who leads him to the gravesite of 23-year-old Laura Tollins (Rhona Mitra.) He finds out that Kyle Finch (Mark Pellegrino), her college professor, apparently killed her (she was into the same kinky stabbing fetish…so that might be a factor.) Walter’s obsession with the number goes into overdrive, eventually drawing Robin into the madness with him. Walter tries to learn as much as he can about the mystery surrounding the number in hopes that he can avoid the same fate as the Fingerling character.
Do you know what I just found out? Between the movies and TV shows on his resume, director Joel Schumacher has directed 23 projects in total (not counting his music videos for the band INXS, Seal, Bush, and The Smashing Pumpkins.) Spooky? Well…not really to me, but it could be for some who may be fascinated by Schumacher’s new thriller, The Number 23.
Schumacher is one of those directors that people either really love or really hate. He is similar to Michael Bay (1996’s The Rock; 1998’s Armageddon; the Bad Boys movies) in that aspect. Schumacher used to be respected back in the day…until he made the crapfest known as Batman Forever in 1995. Two years later, he sunk the knife in deeper with the even worse Batman & Robin. Now…with the exception of 2000’s Tigerland…he seems to be a critical target. For me…I like the guy. Except for the aforementioned Batman movies, I’ve liked most of his post-Dark Knight stuff. 1999’s 8MM was disturbing; Tigerland was interesting (and it introduced me to Colin Ferrell); and 2002’s Phone Booth was a tense thriller. 1999’s Flawless, 2002’s Bad Company, and 2003’s Veronica Guerin were okay, but not my favorites (I’ve never seen 2004’s The Phantom of the Opera.)
I don’t know why, but he decided to take a three-year break from making anything. This is his comeback film, where he is reuniting with his Batman Forever star Carrey. Being that Carrey was the best thing about that movie, I can understand why Schumacher would want to work with the funnyman again.
Carrey is doing the drama thing again here. There are those who don’t like to see him doing drama (they prefer him talking through his butt cheeks), but the two-time Golden Globe winner (for dramatic roles) can do drama in my opinion. For every not-so-good role he has done…like 2001’s The Majestic…there are great roles…such as 1998’s The Truman Show, 1999’s Man on the Moon, and 2004’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (while Moon and Mind were technically nominated for Globes in the Musical or Comedy category, there were dramas in my opinion.) Actually, most other critics are more critical of first-time screenwriter Fernley Phillips’ script than of Carrey’s performance. He does a good job playing the dual role of an ordinary dog-catching family man and a noir-ish detective.
Madsen is also good in her dual roles. While she is playing the umpteenth “supportive wife” role again, she gets to play a sexpot as well. Huston does the dual role thing too, but he isn’t quite as memorable in either role.
Was The Number 23 worth seeing? Aside from a semi-disappointing ending, it is worth it. I liked the performances, and Schumacher managed to create a creepy world for Carrey’s numerological-obsessed character. While I may not want to see the movie 23 times, I’d check it out once or twice. By the way…you may find yourself (or your movie-going buddy) finding coincidences surrounding the number all around you. Stop it! It’s just a frickin’ number, people!
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