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Awesome: 6.58%
Worth A Look: 2.63%
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Pretty Crappy56.58%
Sucks: 19.74%

8 reviews, 28 user ratings

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Number 23, The
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Closer To Number 2"
1 stars

In theory, it wants to be one of those metaphysical mind-benders, a la “Donnie Darko” or the various works of Charlie Kaufman, that takes viewers on a weird narrative journey before arriving at the kind of jaw-dropping conclusion that inspires them to go back for seconds to see if everything holds up. In practice, it is a ridiculous and ridiculously convoluted bit of meta-nonsense that seems to have been devised to suggest what David Lynch’s “Lost Highway” might have been like if it had been made by and for people whose IQ matches the number in the title. Even though the opening months of 2007 have already seen a bumper crop of bad movies, this one is so idiotic that I fully anticipate that it will be appearing on many a Ten Worst Films list about ten months from now.

Jim Carrey stars as Walter Sparrow, an animal control officer somewhat less successful at his job than Ace Ventura. As the film opens, he is called in to capture one stray dog and whiffs the job so badly that he gets bit and winds up chasing the mutt halfway across town before finally losing him in a cemetery. Because of this, he is late meeting wife Agatha (Virginia Madsen) for his birthday celebration and when he finally arrives, she is killing time at a used bookstore flipping through “The Number 23,” a beat-up book from unknown author Topsy Kretts. (That name, by the way, should give you an idea of what passes for clever here.) Agatha buys Walter the book as a present and when he starts reading it, he begins to notice some odd things. For starters, although the story is a neo-noir pastiche involving tough-guy detective Fingerling (also played by Carrey), kinky femme fatale Fabrizia (also played by Madsen) and a strange blonde (Lynn Collins) whose obsession with the number 23 have driven her to suicide, there seem to be a suspiciously high number of similarities between Fingerling’s fictional life and Walter’s real one. As for the number 23, Walter discovers that many believe it to have a darkly supernatural meaning–after all, 2 divided by 3 equals .666 (not exactly), adding the digits of 9/11/2001 (9+11+2+1) equals 23 and there are 23 ingredients in Dr. Pepper–and begins seeing it everywhere he goes.

As Walter becomes more and more obsessed with the story and the number, Agatha tries to smack some sense back into him by pointing out that a person could find similar coincidences in any number if they have the time and energy to waste in looking for them. As for the story, she points out that in the book, Fingerling kills Fabrizia whereas Walter’s body count is firmly lodged at zero. Instead of being reassured, Walter becomes even more paranoid and becomes determined to uncover the identity of Topsy Kretts in the hopes that doing so will allow him to get to the bottom of all the mysteries surrounding the book and the number before he winds up killing someone as well. I wouldn’t dream of revealing what happens next–mostly because I don’t think there is a single living person who could possibly make sense of it–but it is a pungent stew involving a long-ago murder, suicide, insanity and the continued reappearance of the dog from the opening scenes, not to mention what is sure to go down as one of the all-time great bad lines in movie history–“I took the skeleton but I didn’t write the book!”

“The Number 23" tells the kind of story that has to grab and intrigue viewers right from the start if it is to have any chance of succeeding–if not, they will begin fixating on the plot holes and leaps of logic that are the kiss of death for films like this. Here, the screenplay by first-time writer Fernley Phillips starts off on the wrong foot and never manages to right itself. There are far too many scenes in which everything grinds to a halt so that people can point out the various 23's that turn up in everyday life (not to mention 32's, since they are nothing more than 23 reversed) with the aggressiveness of a five-year-old kid playing a road trip game that everyone else in the car has long since given up on. As these moments unfold, it becomes abundantly clear that while Phillips may have come up with a semi-intriguing premise for a film, he was unable to follow through with a coherent story that could build upon it and no amount of stylistic excess from director Joel Schumacher can overcome that key flaw. It also becomes clear that the story is leading up to one of those shocking twist endings that will force viewers to reevaluate everything that they have seen and heard to that point. The problem here is that while the storyline is utterly inexplicable, the final twist is so utterly predictable that you want to shout out “Get On With It” as the characters plod towards it.

Another problem with the film is that we are theoretically supposed to be disturbed by the sight of a once-normal Everyman as he descends into madness but that doesn’t come off at all because the central character simply isn’t very compelling or likable. Basically, he is just a cipher who exists only to be jerked around from plot point to plot point and there is never any moment in which we find ourselves feeling for him as he sinks deeper and deeper into his paranoid obsession. Of course, it doesn’t help matters much that the character is played by Jim Carrey in what may be the dullest and least engaging work of his entire career. Sure, he has been in worse films but at least in those, he supplied enough manic energy to indicate that he was at least trying to make things work. Here, he is a drag throughout no matter which role he is playing–Walter’s collapse into insanity is undercut by the fact that he seems slightly nuts right from the start and his turn as the tough-as-nails Fingerling comes across as a private joke that no one else has been let in on. By comparison, Virginia Madsen comes off a little better here–her Agatha is the only remotely likable character on display and her turn as Fabrizia once again demonstrates that she would have had a killer career as the sexy dame in 1940's film noirs–but I will gently suggest that if you want to see a film this weekend in which she plays the gently reassuring wife to a husband who may or may not be stark raving mad, you might want to check out the infinitely better “The Astronaut Farmer” instead.

Watching “The Number 23" is like being trapped on a long bus ride through a dark and dreary countryside while stuck between a sudoku fanatic and someone reading aloud from “The Da Vinci Code.” It is so bad, in fact, that you may become convinced that the alleged curse of 23 has struck again with a particularly perplexing vengeance. The ironic thing is that for all the huffing and puffing throughout about the number 23, it is all in service of a film that turns out to have far more in common with number 2.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=15597&reviewer=389
originally posted: 02/23/07 00:27:52
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User Comments

8/30/17 brian My street address has 23 characters. So? 2 stars
10/17/09 Matt You can't take Jim from Ace Ventura's comedy to this complete garbage ! I mean WTF... 1 stars
2/09/09 Peter North this movie sucks donkey ass - ha, 23 letters... 1 stars
10/19/08 Samantha Pruitt Jim Carey does a good job but the story is lame! 3 stars
7/18/08 Shaun Wallner A different side of Jim Carrey. 3 stars
6/11/08 DK Over stylised and pappy thriller. Carrey's not bad though 2 stars
1/26/08 mr.mike Sorry , Jim and Joel but it was.....not good. 2 stars
9/16/07 K. Sear Typical pseudo-original crap. 1 stars
8/29/07 Indrid Cold Silly and predictable, but mostly solid. Not sure why it got such horrendous reviews. 3 stars
8/12/07 tejdipty a mind blowing movie grt direction n makin n suspence! 5 stars
7/31/07 Ron just shows, Jim carey should stick to comedy 2 stars
7/28/07 fools♫gold Definitely something average here; I wish I gave "The Tenant" a 2/5. But really, it's nice. 3 stars
4/27/07 Marcus The opening credits are great and after that its all downhill 1 stars
4/17/07 Lindz It was the best movie ever! I loved it! 5 stars
4/05/07 William Goss Fascinating, if only to see how deep they'll dig a hole they can't escape from. 2 stars
3/30/07 Mike Perhaps the dumbest move ever. Incredibly ridiculous. Left very disappointed. 2hrs of pain! 1 stars
3/27/07 Amanda i think this was a great movie! from beginning to the end! 5 stars
3/13/07 Logan Carrey serious? QUE BUENO! 5 stars
3/10/07 Alice SUCKS BIGTIME 1 stars
3/08/07 Tvel Great! The #23 has signigicance to the ending some critics missed it 5 stars
3/05/07 Ole Man Bourbon Pretty decent, til the end. Carey's performance was up and down, all over the place. 3 stars
2/27/07 Jennifer Spry Jim, what were you thinking? This certainly won't get you an Oscar nod! 2 stars
2/26/07 Donny M I thought it was original. Entertaining 4 stars
2/26/07 Felix This one might have been inspired by the very good (german) movie "23" from 1998. 2 stars
2/26/07 psycho you suck 1 stars
2/24/07 Sammeh It's a pretty decent movie. It feels pretty slow and drags out some, but its worth seeing 4 stars
2/23/07 Mere Great opening credits...downhill from there. 1 stars
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  23-Feb-2007 (R)
  DVD: 24-Jul-2007

  23-Feb-2007 (15)
  DVD: 23-Jul-2007

  25-Apr-2007 (MA)

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