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The Number 23

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The Number 23
Christine Loss

The Number 23

Current Status:
In Season
95 minutes
Wide Release Date:
Jim Carrey, Danny Huston, Virginia Madsen, Mark Pellegrino
Joel Schumacher
New Line Cinema
Fernley Phillips
Drama, Mystery and Thriller

We gave it a C

Did you know that it takes about 23 seconds for blood to circulate through our bodies? That Charles Manson was born on Nov. 12 (11th month plus 12th day equals 23)? Are you a bit freaked out yet? Do you realize there are 23 letters in that last sentence I just wrote?

Watch The Number 23 — and especially the DVD’s collection of number-nutty special features — and you may start counting all of the 23s that pop up randomly in your life. That’s what happens to Jim Carrey’s character, shaggy-haired dogcatcher Walter Sparrow, who becomes obsessed with the number 23; Carrey also plays a hard-boiled detective named Fingerling in a violent mystery that Walter is reading. Director Joel Schumacher (Phone Booth, The Phantom of the Opera), working from a screenplay by newcomer Fernley Phillips, tries to do too many things at once here: establish the gradual disintegration of the happy home life Walter shares with his wife (Virginia Madsen) and son (Logan Lerman), explore what some numerologists actually call ”the 23 enigma,” and tempt us to get caught up in the case Fingerling is trying to solve whenever he’s not smooching femme fatale Fabrizia (sounds like an Italian detergent; also played by Madsen).

The result is a thriller with very few thrills. Thanks to Carrey’s understated tone in an overheated movie, The Number 23 works reasonably well as a portrait of a man breaking down. More interesting than the movie, however, is Schumacher’s good-natured commentary. The Number 23 was a box office flop, but you’d never know it from the way the director chats happily about what a great time he had with the actors, and how he and his hardy crew overcame time constraints and a relatively small budget to achieve the thriller special effects he wanted.

Other extras include a featurette on how to figure out your ”life-path number” with the help of an earnest numerologist. The number in question is like an astrological sign — it’s supposed to reveal your true nature. Really successful types, this lady says, are 1s; me, I’m a 2 (the sensitive, sympathetic sort).

The ”23 Enigma” extra rounds up a trio of mathematicians to talk about the importance of numbers in our lives (you can probably figure them out yourself — your ATM PIN code, your cell-phone number, etc.). Carrey pops up on screen occasionally to tell us some more 23 coincidences. The spookiest is that he named his production company JC23 a few years before this movie was made. No word on whether he renamed it JCWHATWASITHINKING after The Number 23 tanked.