I was debating the ways I could give “The Number 23” a score that would, you guessed it, add up to 23, but I didn’t have a lot of options hence the tried and true rating of the number “4.” 2.3 was a possibility but I figured it was taken. “The Number 23” is of course the much anticipated thriller that heralds the reunion of Jim Carrey and Joel Schumacher (Falling Down, The Lost Boys) who previously worked together on “Batman Forever.” There’s also another reunion on hand as Jim Carrey plays Walter Sparrow, a dog catcher who desired to be a detective as a kid bringing unavoidable parallels to a certain Mr. Ventura.
The film, written by Fernley Phillips, finds Carrey’s Sparrow coming into possession of a mysterious book called “The Number 23” which tells the story of a man with an obsession over the number 23. The book also holds strange similarities to Sparrow’s upbringing, particularly with his fascination over a detective named Fingerling, leading Sparrow to become unhealthily involved in the book’s events. Sparrow’s wife Agatha (Virginia Madsen) and friend Isaac French (Danny Huston) become concerned with William’s condition, while his son Robin (Logan Lerman) also begins to buy into the mystery of the number as Sparrow’s obsession gets more and more out of control.
The movie starts out decent enough, with the audience getting a feel for Walter Sparrow as a likeable but awkward guy. Sparrow’s occupation and family relationships are quickly and nicely established but strangely enough, just as the character goes on a downward spiral, so does the movie. About 20 minutes in, “The Number 23” gets really heavy on fantasy sequences really fast. At first they’re interesting, finding “bizarro world” type versions of the movie’s characters involved in a detective plot, but they soon become far fetched and just plain boring and as an audience member, I lost interest fast.
For me, this sense of dullness was all over “The Number 23”; I just didn’t feel like much of anything was at stake. Sure, there’s the possibility that Walter Sparrow will kill his wife as he envisions, but for some reason, I just didn’t care. I think a lot of that has to do with the overuse of fantasy sequences, which got to the point of distraction rather than a valuable plot device. Also, the heavy, heavy use of voice over quickly got on my nerves. It always bothers me when a voice over is used to talk for characters in situations where they could easily say it for themselves, and this is a grand case of it. Sure, it could be attributed to the “noir” element of the detective story, but it just doesn’t work here.
I applaud the parties involved for there efforts to create an original thriller/horror story, but next time, just think the interest level through a lot more. “The Number 23” ends up being just plain boring and hackneyed, and the explanation of the twist, which seems to last 10 minutes, definitely doesn’t help. Nice try, but if anyone becomes obsessed with this movie as Jim Carrey does in the film, they really are crazy.