Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Number 23

" Be sure your sin will find you out. "

Numbers 32:23

  I am a serious fan of Jim Carrey...NOT!!! I've never taken to his style of humour, let alone the type of films he stars in. The only role I have liked him in was as The Riddler/Edward Nygma in 1995's  Batman Forever. The funny thing is that even though he has forged a career as a comedian, I think him a better actor when playing it straight laced. The problem again though is he hasn't done it too often, which is a shame because when he does he shows his real talent.

 2007's The Number 23 is a good example of just this point. Even though a totally unoriginal and forgettable film, it it is worth watching just to see Jim Carey actually acting, and not playing the fuckwit. Seriously I can't stand Dumb and Dumber, Ace Ventura, Cable Guy, etc, etc. I have always found Carrey's humour too forced and hence unfunny. The problem then with watching a film like The number 23 is that you constantly expect Carrey to slip into fuckwit mode and let slip something stupid, or just downright dumb....or even penguins to appear.

 Suffice to say it took me some time to get used to Carrey in a serious role. This is unfortunate because half the film goes by before you relax and realise Ace Ventura isn't going to leap out at you! This was actually Carey's first suspense thriller and the second he made with Joel Schumacher after Batman Forever. I wonder how much of an influence Schumacher was over Carrey's performances in both of these films considering how good they are?

 So what is it all about?? In short it is a psychological thriller which involves a number 23 obsession. ( you know Psalm 23, 23 was Hitler's favorite number etc, etc ). Or in other words the so-called 23 enigma, the esoteric belief that all incidents and events are connected to the number 23, permutation of 23, or a number related to 23. ( In short guy finds a novel that inexplicably is mirroring his own life. It revolves around the number 23 and he becomes obssessed by it as he finds an underlying murder behind the novel's existence ). The premise is great as this belief in 23 is held very real by many people. So you'd expect a really cool film out of it wouldn't you? WRONG!! Because unfortunately The Number 23 takes a fantastic opportunity and completely stuffs it up.

 The problem is that whilst the idea of a number 23 obsession has real scope, the script is just so unoriginal you wonder why anyone even bothered to make it. Seriously folks if you combine Memento, with The Shining and Secret Window, then you would end up with The Number 23. The writing and scrawling on arms and hands is lifted straight out of Memento, as is the scrawling all over any available wall ala The Shining. But worse is the Secret Window analogy. The thing is that in The Number 23 it becomes all too obvious who wrote the novel all too quickly, hence any suspense is completely lost.

 But unlike many films with a ' twist ending ', that of The Number 23 is lost because the twist is played out too long over too many scenes. The impact of who the author is, and how they came to write the novel, becomes meaningless and less of a surprise. Mind you there is no real surprise, because in all reality you'd have to be thick as a six inch plank to not be able to figure it all out within 20 minutes. So the script is a let down and thoroughly unoriginal. So much scope for a really top notch, mind twisting thriller, was completely missed. Believe me as I watched it I felt really annoyed at how such an opportunity went begging.

 The Number 23 was a virtual straight to DVD release, but this does not excuse the poor script, or the waste of a fine performance from Jim Carrey. It did see a limited theatre run but only of 35 days worldwide. Surprisingly it grossed US$35 million in the States and US$77 million worldwide. Which aren't spectacular figures considering it grossed US$27 million from DVD rentals in 2007 alone! So this a film that failed to make any real impact. Again that script cannot be ignored for the films underwhelming performance.

  But it is more than this because the film flits, as it must, between two time streams. But it doesn't do it well enough. Sure there is a certain stylishness about it, but it ultimately feels clumsy, confusing and delivered in a rather rambling manner. And again The Secret Window analogy is all too obvious. All of which takes away from an excellent non-comedic performance from Carrey, which deserves to be seen. The rest of the cast is solid, but Carrey is on a different level. If you hadn't seen him act in this film you'd never believe he could pull of a role like this and so convincingly.

 And that is the problem. Carry's performance is just too good for the whole film! The script is poor to say the least and doesn't do justice to Carrey at all. It is a pity because so many people will never watch this film and see his performance. But what I hope happens is that somewhere in the future Carrey is given a far superior script to work with. One in which he can showcase his obvious talent for this type of suspense thriller.

Memento and The Shining anyone?
 Ultimately The number 23 isn't worth bothering with. If it wasn't for an out of character, and yet stunning performance from Jim Carrey, I wouldn't be able to find anything to commend about this film. It is just too unoriginal, with obvious parallels to other films. And the twist is too easily worked out which makes the whole film pointless. The only thing that came out of this films existence is Jim Carrey. If for nothing else I recommend you give this a watch just too see him in a different type of role.

IMDB has this with 6.2/10. For me that is far too generous. I'd be hard pressed to give it a begrudged 5/10 for being unoriginal, too obvious, and for stuffing up a potentially great premise, and opportunity, to make a creditable thriller around the number 23 enigma.

 Click here for a synopsis and more:


  1. I remember seeing this in the cinema back when it was released although I haven't seen it since then as I totally forgot about it!

    I like this kind of thriller and although the film isn't spectacular I would give it the 6.2/10 just because I absolutely loved the opening credits!

    If The Number 23 wanted to be a really great film it needed to ditch Schumacher and Carrey - they do an okay job but only okay

    I am not a huge Carrey fan either but I also really like him in Batman Forever - it is a guilty pleasure film.

    I have soft spot for The Cable Guy but the black humour worked for me!

  2. Didn't do too much for me either, good review though.

  3. Karina I like this type of film as well and the start to it is really cool. I thought yep this is going to be good. But I doubt if any director or actor could do any better with that lousy script.
    I'm not a carey fan at all but I was surprised by him in this. But besides this and Batman Forever I avoid his films like the plague!

    AL...yeah exactly..just doesn't engage the viewer on any level, which is a pity because it could have been so much more.

  4. I remember seeing THE NUMBER 23 quite a few years ago. It was actually quite forgettable so all I really remember was the fact that it was crap.

    Have you seen ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND? That's the only serious role of Jim Carrey's that I like.

  5. No I haven't even heard of it! Will look out for it as Carrey plays serious far better than comedy. This was a poor film due to the unoriginal script. So much promise was wasted.

  6. Eternal Sunshine is an excellent film, just thought I'd throw my addition to that recommendation.

    I've been curious about the Number 23 because it seemed like the type of 2nd tier film I'd find something to like, plus a personal favorite of mine Rhona Mitra is in it. But after so much negative work of mouth I kind of just forgot about it, sounds like Carrey really does some good work here.

  7. Carrey is quite good in this but he is let down by that script. Overall the film just isn't worth bothering with and is nothing more than a curiosity for anyone interested in Jim Carrey.

  8. Good to know, probably might just give it a look if it's one TV or something.