By Joshua Rich
February 28, 2007 at 05:00 AM EST

Jim Carrey. Love the guy. Totally killed in The Cable Guy. Totally melted our hearts in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. But, it seems, not everybody is such a fan these days. Check out the sluggish opening-weekend gross for his latest movie, The Number 23: just $14.6 million, his fourth-worst premiere since he achieved superstardom back in 1994. Indeed, the erstwhile Ace Ventura’s box office returns have been declining during the past several years. Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas earned $260 million in 2000 and Bruce Almighty brought in $242.8 million in 2003, but his other big Hollywood projects this decade — Me, Myself & Irene, The Majestic, Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, and Fun With Dick and Jane — haven’t come close.

Which leads to the troubling question: Is Jim Carrey’s popularity on the wane? And, if so, why? Does stardom, especially comedy cred, have a definite lifespan? (Quick aside: This thought occurred to me as I stood in line, right next to none other than Chevy Chase, waiting to have my audience with Al Gore at EW’s Oscar party in L.A. last week. I mean, one of the biggest stars of the 1980s in the same pathetic position as little old me!) Have folks grown tired of Carrey’s shtick, even when he’s being serious? Or did The Number 23 perform poorly at the box office because the dark, R-rated thriller is so out of character for the comedy genius? (Were ticketbuyers actually swayed by the reviews?) Will he be able to turn things around? How?