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The Number 23 Is No Breakthrough

Published February 22, 2007 in Movie Reviews
By Fred Topel | Image property of New Line Cinema.
The Number 23 Poster The Number 23
I'm all in favor of comedians going serious. I think it takes real darkness to find great laughs. I'm all for giving Joel Schumacher as many second chances as he needs. You never know when the next Lost Boys will come around. But The Number 23 is no breakthrough for either the director or the star.

Movie Review: The Number 23


Walter Sparrow (Jim Carrey) is given a book called "The Number 23" by his wife, Agatha (Virginia Madsen). Its plot about a hard boiled detective mirrors aspects of his own life. When it gets to the part about everything adding up to 23, Walt gets really obsessed and follows a downward spiral of paranoia.

The best part of the film is the crime novel scenes. Tough guys and sexy damsels with crime novel dialogue are really cool. The camera tricks and the lighting changes are obvious, but it's all fun.

The 23 stuff isn't as interesting as you'd like it to be. Every 23 could also add up differently. Instead of adding, try multiplication or subtraction. And they don't add up to anything cosmic. They just serve the plot. Even the real world examples don't really suggest anything philosophical. Of course some of the events in human history would add up to 23. Plenty of them probably add up to 69 too, but that's not helping me get laid.



Ultimately, The Number 23 is the same as every other paranoid thriller. Same twists, same payoff. The hero leaves a big find unattended so that the killer can move it and make him look even crazier. You get all the answers and it makes sense, every plotline explained like the Carver's plan in nip/tuck, but it's all so contained. If the number is really so significant, as I understand it is in some intellectual circles, why not go there?

It does end with a juicy moral issue, though expressed via a ridiculous gesture. But at least there's that.

Carrey is perfectly restrained in the role. He's funny like a real guy, not like a comedian performing at every opportunity. When he plays the alter ego in the detective novel, he's a total badass.

The Number 23 isn't boring. It's perfectly passable. But after taking you on this journey, it just leaves you feeling like, "Okay, that happened." Shouldn't a thriller be at least a little unsettling?


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Fred Topel
Sources: Image property of New Line Cinema.
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