Film Reviews

THE NUMBER 23

By • Feb 23rd, 2007 •

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New Line Cinema / Contrafilm / Firm Films
Running time — 95 minutes / MPAA rating: R

Glaring flaws in the story makes it silly and too contrived to be a good thriller.

I liked THE NUMBER 23 even though there were glaring flaws in the story and Virginia Madsen (THE ASTRONAUT FARMER) annoyed me once again by playing a wife who looks at her husband as if he was the Baby Jesus. Yes, and her character has been married to Baby Jesus for over 17 years, and he’s the village dog catcher.

He’s also stark raving crazy and she never had a clue.

I know someone who is in the thrall to numbers. It is quite frustrating since there are numbers everywhere! And, just to let you know, license plate numbers are eerily significant. I am impressed that my friend can quickly add up numbers and knows what every number means – to him, to me, to the planet, as well as the number’s relationship to God.

Fantastic husband and wonderful father Walter Sparrow (Carrey), a mild mannered, gentle dog catcher, meets up with one mean dog named Ned. Getting bitten by Ned makes him late to pick up his devoted wife Agatha (Madsen). She wanders into a used bookstore and scans a self-published hand-scratched book, “The Number 23.” She insists Walter read it. The book is a detective story told in the first person by a character named Fingerling. As Walter reads the book, we are shown the story of Fingerling (Carrey). He’s jaded, ruined, and hot! He has a bad, sexy girlfriend, Fabrizia (Madsen). They have nasty, nasty sex. Fingerling likes it that way. Are we finally seeing Carrey exactly how he wants us to?

Filming these scenes must have been lots of fun. (No doubt the selling point for Carrey and Madsen.) There were slaps, handcuffs, and knives, but no Gimp mask (that was on FX’s “Dirt”. Courteney Cox’s Lucy’s mother is kinky but she and her husband do have a safe word).

Walter sees that the book reflects everything about his life. These coincidental comparisons completely elude Agatha, who doesn’t know a thing about Walter’s past.

Detective Fingerling is sent to find a girl, “Suicide Blonde” (Lynn Collins), who is being tormented, controlled, and morally and psychically destroyed by the Number 23. After she kills herself, Fingerling then feels that the Number 23 has attached itself to him! Reading the book and the similarities to his own life, Walter starts to believe the Number 23 has glommed on to him!

There is an unsatisfactory twist I will not disclose. All I will say is loyalty and love go only so far. Agatha was one dumb wife.

Who is her friend, Dr. Miles Phoenix (Danny Huston), and why is there a romantic photo of them? Why is he always around?

New Line Cinema sent me a sheet of paper with tons of Number 23 references. Could there be something to this? The screenplay by Fernley Phillips had potential, but the surrounding dog-catcher story is weak. As I personally know, numbers can obsess people. I remember back in the day of the New Age craze, everyone was changing the spelling of their name to attract a more favorable number.

I confess. For a very short time, I changed the spelling of my first name, Victoria, to Vittoria!

Why did Carrey pick cursed director Joel Schumacher? Didn’t he look at Schumacher’s track record, or was he promised an indulgent director? Carrey, getting too old for slapstick comedy, is in the right direction and he does quite an adequate job of showing us Walter’s breakdown. While THE NUMBER 23 is not his life jacket out of comedy, it does show that he can be sexy, dangerous, and can leave the rubbery face behind. All he needs – it is what every actor needs – is a director who is in love with him.
Radar magazine’s Feb. 13th issue has an article on Jim Carrey. Radar labels Carrey “unpredictable” and blames the collapse of some recent projects on his “bizarre behavior and on-set tantrums.”

Radar reports: “Apparently Carrey annoyed colleagues after he ‘unzipped his fly and urinated’ during a scene on his upcoming film, THE NUMBER 23” – a touch that wasn’t in the script. “Dealing with Carrey proved so harrowing for FUN WITH DICK AND JANE’s director [Dean Parisot] that he now refers to the film as FUN WITH JANE”, the story claims. “He was scary,” a LEMONY SNICKET exec says. “When producers … expressed the studio’s concerns to Carrey, director Brad Silberling recalls, the star bristled. He said, ‘You should stop right now, because what you’re about to say may mess up my creativity for the rest of this movie.'” Three big Carrey films since last year have been delayed or canned, including USED GUYS with Ben Stiller and a Cameron Diaz project.”

“I’ve gone through periods when I couldn’t shut off the conversations in my head. That’s kind of a form of insanity, when you can’t control it, when it’s taking over” – Jim Carrey to the London Times.

Carrey’s well known tough childhood may be the source of his creativity and his strangeness. When he was 13 years old his father lost his job and the entire family took security and janitorial jobs. For a time the family was in such financial straits that they lived in their Volkswagen van or in a tent on a relative’s lawn. In order to help out, Carrey began working eight-hour shifts each day after school. He once wrote a check worth $20 million, hoping one day to cash it in. A few years after that, his father died. He then placed the check he wrote to himself inside the pocket of his father’s funeral clothes.

At my father’s funeral, I placed a few dollars in his pocket and a watch. I told the funeral director that when my father was in The Spirit World he would have “walking around money”’ and be in demand since he would know what time it was. He’d be much better off then the others who didn’t even have shoes. Everyone arrives in the afterlife absolutely broke! I often burn “Representational Money” (called “joss money” in the Chinese culture) for my father so he can enjoy some of the commissary perks of The Spirit World.

I heard that Carrey’s father always waves around that check saying, “I told you so! My boy is rich! He gave me 20 million dollars.”


Credits:
Director: Joel Schumacher
Screenwriter: Fernley Phillips
Producers: Beau Flynn, Tripp Vinson
Executive producers: Mike Drake, Toby Emmerich, Richard Brener, Keith Goldberg, Brooklyn Weaver, Eli Richbourg
Director of photography: Matthew Libatique
Production designer: Andrew Laws
Editor: Mark Stevens
Costume designer: Daniel Orlandi
Music: Harry Gregson-Williams
Cast: Walter Sparrow/Fingerling: Jim Carrey, Agatha Sparrow/Fabrizia: Virginia Madsen, Robin Sparrow: Logan Lerman, Isaac French/Dr. Miles Phoenix: Danny Huston,
Suicide Blonde/Mrs. Dobkins/Young Fingerling’s Mother: Lynn Collins, Laura Tollins: Rhona Mitra.

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