Jim Carrey as Walter Sparrow/Fingerling
Virginia Madsen as Agatha Sparrow/Fabrizia
Logan Lerman as Robin Sparrow
Danny Huston as Isaac French/Dr. Miles Phoenix
Lynn Collins as Suicide Blonde/Mrs. Dobkins/Young Fingerling’s Mother
Directed by Joel Schumacher
“Fate” leads Walter Sparrow to come in possession of a mysterious novel that has eerie similarities and connections to his life, all based around the number 23. As the story unfolds in real life and fiction, Sparrow must figure out his connection to the book and how the story will eventually end.
Billed as a psychological thriller, “The Number 23” is nothing short of a test of the limits of the human mind. The characters of “The Number 23” endure one man’s obsession, which becomes a haunting reality as his mind breaks down trying to figure out the strange coincidences that occur in connection with the mysterious novel and the number “23”. The audience, who has to sit and endure through this, is tested and compelled to find a way to not allow their mind to break down, to get up from their seat and walk out of the theater.
I had a tough time getting into “The Number 23” from the very start. We first meet Jim Carrey’s character Walter Sparrow on the job as an animal control officer, trying to catch a dog that apparently is important to the plot but whose role is never fully explained. I could not help but think this is how “Ace Ventura 3” should start.
It was not so much that I had issue with Carrey and his acting; Carrey actually does a decent job with what he has to work with. It was in fact fun to watch when Jim Carrey’s character fully reached his obsession and tip-toed the line of insanity at about an hour and 15 minutes into the movie. However, my enjoyment was rather short lived as this scene lasts 35 seconds. By the time the ending of the movie comes, I could really care less for anything that the character had been through, is going through and will go through.
One does not have to look any further than the script to see this movie’s flaws. The story and dialogue is full of pure nonsense, confusion and clichés. “The Number 23” is told two different ways and style: the first occurs in real life with Carrey’s character Walter Sparrow coming into contact with the book and getting quite annoying as he tries to figure out the hidden connection. As Sparrow reads the book, director Joel “I killed the Batman franchise” Schumacher has all the characters playing corresponding fictional characters in a parallel “pulp” detective story. Carrey plays the lead role of Fingerling, the bad boy, tattoo-covered, saxophone playing detective who also narrates the unoriginal side story in a dull and monotone voice that lulled me into a near comatose state.
The supporting cast suffers the exact same way as its star Carrey. Virginia Madsen plays Carry’s wife Agatha and also fictional “Fabrizia” in the side story. It is painful to watch her as either character attempts to show sympathy and support for Sparrow/Fingerling and her son Robin Sparrow. (Another horrible name in this film.) Madsen plays a key role in the movie twist that ultimately proves not to be a twist but rather another misleading way to tell the story. In my opinion, what makes a psychological thriller great is giving the audience little bits of information so that when the eventual twist occurs, it should all add up. “The Number 23” does this sort of. The information that is given and/or not given is twisted and shaped so that the eventual climax can be “shocking.” I found my mind wandering during Madsen’s scenes thinking “The Number 23” was a really bad episode of “The X-Files” due to Madsen’s striking resemblance to Agent Dana Scully.
Another glaring problem with “The Number 23” is Joel Schumacher’s direction. Here we have yet another Joel Schumacher feature film that has a fun premise but ultimately suffers from tremendous flaws. Ironically, this is feature film number 23 for Joel Schumacher and the man still can’t get it right. Schumacher’s career can be summed as thus: he makes the occasional decent film that is surrounded by many bad films. One should keep in mind that even a broken clock is right twice a day. From the start of the opening credits, it is painfully clear to see that Schumacher fails miserably at being David Fincher, who I consider a psychological thriller master. The lighting, camera frames, sets, credits and twists are all maliciously borrowed from other movies of the genre. Additionally, Schumacher does not think highly of his audiences I.Q. I felt that the mystery of the number 23 connection was not only over-played but beaten to death. The same can be said about the mysterious dog that makes frequent appearances in the movie depicting a higher power looming. It is almost as if Schumacher is compelled to use every single piece of dog footage he shot in the film, because every scene with this animal kills the movie’s forced tension and makes for an extremely awkward viewing experience.
I have not been more irritated and displeased about a movie in quite some time, because I really wanted to like this movie. The premise is intriguing, the star power is there and the psychological thriller genre is a favorite of mine. However, I cannot express any more strongly how flawed “The Number 23” is. Awkward moments, terrible dialogue and a boring presentation plague this film.