“The nightmare begins when Walter Sparrow (Carrey), a mild-mannered dogcatcher, begins reading a tattered, used book called ‘The Number 23.’ Obsessed by the countless similarities between the degenerate main character and himself, Walter plunges headlong into the same dark, seductive world. When the book’s main character commits an unspeakable act, Walter is terrified that he’s destined to follow the same twisted path.”
“The Number 23” is unrated. The theatrical version is rated R for violence, disturbing images, sexuality and language.
It starts out with Carrey reading a novel found in a used bookstore. The lead character is named “Fingerling”. (Fingerling? What kind of dumb name is that? Ironically, Madsen’s character remarks at one point what a cool name it is.) The story then shift to scenes from the book as Carrey plays a tattooed, brooding detective in desperate need of a shower and a haircut. Adding to the unintentional comedy is Carrey narrating the scenes in deep, serious voice. As the terribly overacted scenes unfold, we’re treated to a vamped up Virginia Madsen and variations of every other character in the main storyline.
“The Number 23” then completely shifts gears. After sitting through these crime drama scenes from the book, we’re treated to more of a mainstream murder mystery as Walter Sparrow tries to track down a killer. At this point the movie becomes significantly more bearable. But as the movie finishes its final act, “The Number 23” delves into the realm of madness as Sparrow completely loses it. The whole story concludes with a rather predictable ending.
Sprinkled all through this is obsession with the number 23. You’re bombarded with factoid after factoid about the number 23. You hear conspiracy theories related to the number 23, words with letters that add up to 23, sports stats related to 23, etc etc etc. What makes it all laughable is the utter seriousness that the characters deliver the stats with. They make it sound like the number 23 is some boogeyman that’s trying to hunt them down. For what reason, the movie never gives a clue. (Maybe it’s jealous of lucky number 7?) To further add to the absurdity, a dog follows Sparrow around and somehow acts as the Number 23’s harbinger of doom. Seeing Carrey carry on conversations with the dog and staring at him with complete seriousness is really laughable.
As much as I liked Carrey in the past, this has to be one of his worst performances. Him acting serious in this movie simply doesn’t work. In fact, he frequently adds jokes to scenes and his ad libbing is quite obvious because it doesn’t fit with anything else in the script.
Overall I recommend that you just bypass this film entirely. It’s not a good Jim Carrey film, it’s not a good Joel Schumacher film, and it’s not a good thriller.
What the film lacked in entertainment value it made up for in DVD bonus features. First off, you get the unrated and theatrical versions of “The Number 23.” One is only 3 minutes longer than the other, but there you have it. You also get your standard director commentary, making of video (which is 22 minutes long, not 23), and deleted scenes. There are 14 minutes of deleted scenes. None are particularly notable except for an alternate ending where Carrey’s character meets a more grisly ending. The other scenes show him more as a dog catcher early in the story. You’ll also find “Creating the World of Fingerling” Featurette which covers the special effects heavy scenes of the story flashbacks. Also included is “The 23 Enigma” Documentary which continues the absurd hype surrounding the number 23. But the highlight of the bonus features is “How to Find Your Path Numbers”. It features a kooky woman explaining the power of Numerology. You’ve just got to see this to believe it.