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The Number 23

The Number 23

Genre: Drama/Mystery/Thriller
Rated: R
Directed by:
Joel Schumacher
Starring: Jim Carrey, Virginia Madsen, Logan Lerman, Danny Huston, Lynn Collins, Rhona Mitra
Released by: New Line Cinema

In Short: This contrived tale of the perils of obsessive numerology is worth a cheap rental but not much else.

A Mathematician's Nightmare
Forgettable in Every Way
by Laurie Hartzell

Although it starts out as an entertaining weekend popcorn movie, this numerology thriller attempts to dive into "The Da Vinci Code" territory but instead drowns in predictable histrionics.

Jim Carrey is Walter Sparrow, a slightly off-kilter dog-catcher whose life changes for the worse when fate intervenes in the form of a devoted dog. Virginia Madsen plays Walter's wife, Agatha, who discovers a book in an old book store because Walter arrives late for their date, because he was bitten by the dog that also appears several other times throughout the movie to keep the plot rolling. Sound contrived yet?

Jim Carrey in "The Number 23"
Jim Carrey and Virginia Masden in "The Number 23"

The book that Agatha finds tells the tale of a man haunted and obsessed with the number 23, which paranoid numerologists connect to catastrophic events. Walter discovers that details and characters in the book are eerily similar to parts of his own life, and although he becomes more and more obsessed with the book throughout the first part of the film, it takes him forever to read the darn thing. "Did you finish it yet?" his wife Agatha repeatedly asks. Agatha also mirrors our feelings in several other instances, stating that the 23 phenomenon is self-fulfilling—anyone who's looking for the number will find it. We wish Jim Carrey’s character would have listened…

Gratuitous throat-slashing and balcony-jumping follow as the film attempts to delve into both the secrets of the book’s author and the mystery of the number 23, resulting in a sort-of "Da Vinci Code" adventure for mentally unstable numerologists. The surprise ending wasn't much of a surprise, and unlike fellow revelation films such as "The Usual Suspects" and "The Sixth Sense," "The Number 23" won't be worth watching a second time.

Danny Huston in "The Number 23"
Jim Carrey as Walter Sparrow in "The Number 23"

Despite the cheap thrills and clichéd scenes—Agatha enters an abandoned insane asylum at night with no flashlight, how smart!—there are parts of this movie that remain memorable. We thought we'd be seeing 23 everywhere as soon as we exited the theater, but the only thing that stuck with us was how strangely hot Jim Carrey was in this film. The ridiculous rubber-faced Ace Ventura long gone, Carrey’s skeevy, unshaven, back-tattooed character was actually sexy, and the steamy scenes with a vamped-out Virginia Madsen didn't hurt either. All in all, if you’re looking for a cheap night at home, "The Number 23" will be worth a rental in the future, but not much else.

And don't bother circling the 23rd word in each paragraph of this review and making a hidden sentence—you could probably force the words to mean something, but like the movie, in the end, it wouldn’t amount to anything.

(Updated: 02/23/07 LH)

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