The Number 23
|Jim Carrey||Walter Sparrow/Detective Fingerling|
|Virginia Madsen||Agatha Sparrow/Fabrizia|
|Logan Lerman||Robin Sparrow|
|Danny Huston||Dr. Isaac French/Dr. Miles Phoenix|
|Rhona Mitra||Laura Tollins|
|Lyn Collins||Suicide Blonde/Ms. Dobkins/Fingerling's mother|
|Directed by||Joel Schumacher|
Twenty-three is a number fraught with mystery. It turns up everywhere, in everything, if you look hard enough. It even turns up in itself. There are eleven and a half characters in ?twenty-three,? if you count the hyphen as half a character. Double that and what have you got? Twenty-three.
Gives you chills, doesn?t it?
A cult has grown up about the number 23. It?s a prime number. The Mayan calendar ends on December 23, 2012, and the obsessive among you will not have missed that 20 +1+2=23. The human body sports 46 chromosomes, 23 from each parent, and the earth tilts on its axis at something near 23 degrees. Pretty much every important date in history, from the creation of the universe (October 23, 4004 BC, according to Archbishop Ussher?s calculations) to the death of Shakespeare (April 23, 1616 ? and note that 16+1+6=23) to 9/11/2001 (9+11+2+1=23), can be teased to fit the pattern. Of course, they can be teased to fit a lot of other numbers too.
What can?t be hammered out of this fixation, apparently, is a coherent movie, at least on the evidence here. Working from an overwrought script by first-time screenwriter Fernley Phillips, veteran director Joel Schumacher and erstwhile comedy megastar Jim Carrey careen from wry to earnest to hysterical as they tell a tale drenched in blood and crammed with what probably adds up to about twenty-three plot twists.
There are two plots, running mostly concurrently. In one, Walter Sparrow (Jim Carrey) is a dogcatcher, a sweet-tempered family man with a lovely wife Agatha (Virginia Madsen). In the other, a story-within-a-story, Fingerling (Jim Carrey) is a hard-boiled private dick with a vampy femme fatale named Fabrizia (Virginia Madsen) and a few other hangers-on like the Suicide Blonde and the Widow Dobkins (both Lynn Collins). With those two Carrey characters, the movie sets up as a wink and a nod to Carrey?s breakthrough hit, Ace Ventura, Pet Detective. Sounds like fun, right? And it sort of starts off that way. The early scenes have Carrey reminding us of his roots, playing scenes for comedy. But as it swerves into the dark night of its plot, that falls away, and the star abandons the Steve Martin model for something more in the Tony Perkins vein.
The plot kicks into gear on the fateful night of Sparrow?s birthday (2/3), when a dog bite makes him late for meeting his wife and she passes the time browsing in a bookstore. She comes across a red-jacketed, self-published typescript titled The Number 23; a Novel of Obsession, by Topsy Kretts (as unlikely a name as Fernley Phillips, and one with a top-secret message hidden in it.) For reasons surpassing human understanding, she buys it for Sparrow as a birthday present. Over their dozen or so years of marriage, she seems not to have noticed he?s not much of a reader. ?What, have some writer fill my head with nonsense?? he snorts. ?I?ll wait for the movie!?
Filled with nonsense? That ain?t the half of it! He speed-dials through scornful into fascinated and on out the far side of manic obsession. Everything about the book and its characters strikes an eerie chord with him ? the detective Fingerling, the dog next door, brand names, situations, locations, and of course the ubiquitous and menacing number 23.
Agatha quickly comes to regret giving her husband the book, but it?s too late for that. She has him see family friend Dr, Phoenix (Danny Huston), a psychologist, who tells Sparrow that ?the number 23 is very good at this game,? but suggests that you can pretty much do the same thing with any number.
Sparrow?s not buying. He plunges deeper and deeper, getting scarier and more whacked out, encountering 23s at every turn as he bolts down the blood-drenched trail of an old murder. Schumacher darkens his camera as we go, until it?s more than three times as murky as David Fincher?s Se7en, and Carrey darkens his performance to emotional midnight. Madsen scurries along being as supportive as she can under the circumstances, which include offering her throat up for slicing to show what a sport she is.
Much beyond that a decent respect for the opinions of mankind and the rules of spoiling do not permit me to go. But you?ll want to carry a pencil and paper to keep track of some of the ?What the?.?? moments as The Number 23 strains for the finish line.
The Number 23 comes tantalizingly close now and then to camp deliciousness, but Schumacher can?t muster the courage for it. His career has included some decent fare (Phone Booth, Falling Down) some fun potboilers (St. Elmo?s Fire, The Client), and some real garbage (8MM, The Phantom of the Opera.) This one may open a whole new category of its own.
And would you believe it? If you tally up his feature films, throwing in a couple of early TV movies, and give him a half point each for his two INXS videos, then this one comes up as number 23!
© Text 2007 Jonathan Richards - Filmfreak.be