The Number 23: 2 Stars (out of 5)
Beware films from Joel Schumacher. The director’s latest centers around a dog catcher’s obsession with the number 23. The film builds and builds, and Schumacher is able to keep the tension and suspense in check, until the ridiculousness overtakes everything. The rising tension was pretty good and the film has a bizarre quality I liked, but neither Schumacher or writer Fernley Phelps knew how to make the film pay off. It’s not a question of if the film will lose you, but when.
For his birthday Walter Sparrow (Jim Carey) is given an odd used book by his wife (Virginia Madsen). The book, by Topsy Kretts (if you don’t get it try saying the words aloud), is simply titled “The Number 23” and is an amateur novel about a detective named Fingerling who becomes wrapped up in mystery and murder all originating from the meaning of a single number – 23.
It’s as Walter returns to reality, more and more troubled each time by the similarities between Fingerling and himself, that the movie’s obsession unfolds. Walter begins to see the number everywhere and becomes all consumed with finding out what it all means as his own world begins deteriorate just as Fingerling’s did.
Jim Carrey does what he can in the role, but a more serious actor would probably have better sold Walter’s slow fall into insanity. Indie fans will not doubt see many similarities to Darren Aronofsky‘s Pi which is a much better film.
We are given a beginning and a middle but no climax. The end the makers of this film give us is so ludicrous people throughout the theater were giggling, or out right laughing, during the final act.
It’s just sad that such a good premise never pays off. Although the film gives you a reason for the book being written, as implausible as it is, it does not address why, though it does offer a rather lame explanation of how, it should be published or found in a local bookstore. And the final outcome is so disappointing; it feels like it was written simply to fit a moral agenda that isn’t part of the rest of the story. And I’m not even going to get in the ridiculous nature of the mystical dog who manages to appear, each time more absurdly, as if by magic, or how the final explanation creates huge continuity and timeline issues. I’ll leave those for, what will doubtless be many, others to disparage.
Schumacher had something here, but, as often happens with his films, he couldn’t bring it home. I would have liked to see what someone like Brian DePalma would have done with the script. I can’t recommend the film, but the first forty-five minutes to an hour as a man delves into a world of paranoid obsession is very engaging; too bad the rest is so ridiculous.
The Number 23 is Rated R for violence, disturbing images, sexuality and language, with a running time of 95 minutes.