New Line // 2006 // 101 Minutes // Unrated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // October 23rd, 2009
The truth will find you.
Jim Carrey (Yes Man) sets aside the clown nose for a high-concept, half-baked psychological thriller.
Animal Control Officer Walter Sparrow (Carrey) finds himself enveloped by conspiracy theorizing and runaway paranoia, when a series of coincidences brings him into contact with a book titled "The Number 23." The author appears to be suffering from major delusions, menaced by 23, which appears everywhere and seems to hold a mystifying numerological power over nearly everything.
As Sparrow absorbs the book, the number starts getting into his head and he's convinced the author has used the book to confess to a murder. Soon the entire Sparrow family is in on the mystery, off to decipher the book's riddles and maybe catch themselves a killer! Hooray!
I missed this one both theatrically and on DVD, but frankly wasn't beating myself up over it. While the idea of a Jim Carrey straight drama was compelling, the premise of a killer number left me cold. Now, after finally laying eyes on the flick in glorious HD, my instincts were correct. The Number 23 is slick-looking and well-acted, but ultimately a victim of its own convoluted storyline and surprise twist that wasn't much of a surprise. Since the movie is virtually all about the plot and the ending, underperformance in those areas provide the death sentence.
The Number 23 isn't malignantly bad; the substance just can't live up to the style, which -- with Joel Shumacher at the helm -- is considerably over-stylized. Because the endgame is to build suspense before ultimately unveiling the big twist, the forward progression is methodical and takes its sweet time getting going. I was shifting in my seat a fair amount during the run-up, but surprisingly the reveal and successive exposition -- the film's most compelling material -- is even more cumbersome. Not a good sign.
Then there's the number 23 stuff. It's fairly interesting, in a weirdo Lost kind of way, but the concept soon overstays its welcome. Eventually, everything becomes connected to 23, with characters spouting out the coincidences and connections every other line. Walter's license plate adds up to 23. A girl dies at the age of 23. Walter's birth date is February 3 (2-3, get it?). And so on. I wasn't entirely sure why the characters went bonkers, but if I had to continually listen to someone yakking about the number, I could see myself eventually taking a flying leap out a hotel window.
Ending this review on a more positive note, I'll give a shout out to Jim Carrey. He's not completely successful in moving past his manic comedy persona, but comes close. It's always interesting to see an actor do something completely different than what the audience is used to. He does well with material that's not the greatest and I'd be interested to see him continue with the more serious efforts.
The film may not have blown up my skirt, but I am glad I saw it on Blu-ray. New Line's high-def release is top-shelf, beginning with a gorgeous 2.40:1 1080p transfer that perfectly transmits the hyper-noir look Shumacher envisioned and DP Matthew Libatique brings to life. Colors are washed out and high-gloss, looking terrific in Blu. The DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio is a suitable complement to the outstanding visuals, delivering a forceful, clean mix. Extras: Shumacher's commentary on the theatrical version; a pop-up trivia track that keeps the "23" mythology rolling; four making-of featurettes (behind-the-scenes, the script process, and two segments on "the 23 engima") in HD; alternate scenes; and a modest in-movie experience that gives brief interviews and on-set candid footage when you click the icon.
A disposable thriller lands a very nice Blu-ray. Worth an upgrade for die-hard fans.
Guilty, but it's a glorious misfire.
Review content copyright © 2009 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2015 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: New Line
* 2.40:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 101 Minutes
Release Year: 2006
MPAA Rating: Unrated
* Theatrical and Extended Version
* In-Movie Experience
* Trivia Track
* Alternate Scenes