Director Joel Schumacher is a man of extremes. He is the one behind such great films as The Client and A Time to Kill, and has recently reinvigorated his career with smaller films like Phone Booth and Tigerland. Unfortunately, he is also the man who did Batman & Robin and 8MM. So where does his latest movie, The Number 23, factor in?
Sadly, The Number 23 is not the masterpiece thriller I was hoping it to be. It is not a disaster, but far from being a memorable film. It's a shame, because the movie really did have potential. The movie could have been a frightening descent into madness, a chance for Jim Carrey to finally prove once and for all that he has what it takes to be completely serious actor, a mainstream version of Pi... so many things. Instead, it is a mildly entertaining yet ultimately predictable and disappointing movie.
So what went wrong?
Veering as far away from the comedic genre as he ever has, Carrey plays a husband and father who becomes obsessed with a book that tells him everything in his life is linked to the number 23. As the days progress, he becomes more and more convinced that he is somehow connected to this book. The relationship with his wife (Virginia Madsen) becomes strained, and he starts to have nightmares of him murdering her. Is he becoming the character in the book, a man who is driven by the number 23 to obsession and murder, or is it all just a paranoid delusion?
The movie has a great premise, and had the chance to be a great vehicle to launch Carrey's dramatic career. Had the movie veered more into the Hellish possibilities and stayed away from the mainstream conventions that so many of these February thrillers adhere to, it might have worked. Unfortunately, all of those insinuations that the previews make about the number being related to Hell, about the number being special in some greater way, are put to waste. SPOILER ALERT. The movie could have taken several paths. It could have taken a supernatural one, or at least a way that hints at it. It could have gone the character study route, where we really get into Carrey's head and watch has his paranoia gets the better of him. Instead, the movie takes a linear path, one that is neither truly convincing nor truly satisfying. The film jumps in between a "fictional" storyline that resembles the characters in the book, and a normal storyline that follows the living, breathing characters. Unfortunately, Schumacher never tries to blend the line between reality and the novel, nor does he really develop Carrey's growing obsession in a rewarding way. When the big twist of the movie comes, it is something we have seen before, and, like before, the result isn't very satisfying. Schumacher provides the easy answer rather than present something more sophisticated and open-ended.
Carrey really isn't that effective in the leading role. While he does an okay job, the movie is full of narration, and what does his narrated voice sound exactly like? Guess. Guess! Zoolander. He sounds like Ben Stiller in Zoolander, I kid you not.
Still, The Number 23 doesn't fall apart at the seams. It is a movie that is what it is, and is mildly entertaining. It has its moments, and is still intriguing for a little bit. There have been worse movies.
The Number 23 has its moments, and certainly doesn't have 23 bad things going against it. It just doesn't go in a very interesting direction, and the result is an unsatisfying thriller with few thrills.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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