With a dud like ''The Number 23,'' is Hollywood still behind the funnyman?

By Missy Schwartz
Updated March 02, 2007 at 05:00 AM EST

A $14.6 million first weekend for The Number 23 — well, it’s not the worst opening of Jim Carrey’s career. (1989’s Earth Girls Are Easy holds that honor.) Considering that the film, an R-rated thriller directed by Joel Schumacher (Phone Booth), had to overcome critical nastiness, its so-so showing is almost a victory. Still, we’re talking about an actor who practically guaranteed record-breaking bows like Bruce Almighty‘s $86 million in 2003. With 23‘s lukewarm performance, coupled with three of his projects — Used Guys, A Little Game, and Ripley’s Believe It or Not — falling apart last year, could Carrey’s star power be waning?

”He’s proven himself so many times, there’s no way you can count him out,” says one Hollywood producer. ”There isn’t a studio head who wouldn’t do a Jim Carrey movie.” (That is, for a reasonable price — ballooning budgets are partly what stalled Guys and Ripley’s.) This is hardly his first drama to flop (remember The Majestic?), but it’s unlikely to stop him from trying again. And maybe he’ll even find another Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. ”He’s constantly trying to challenge himself,” notes Judd Apatow, who co-wrote Carrey’s Fun With Dick and Jane. ”He’s never played it safe.”

However much he wants to branch out, comedy remains the star’s strength. And so the former Grinch will revisit Dr. Seuss with 2008’s animated Horton Hears a Who. He’s also toying with two book ideas — one for kids, the other about life lessons. ”I’m just being creative and seeing where it goes,” Carrey told EW recently. With any luck, it’ll go a little better than The Number 23.