Archive for Joel Schumacher

The Number 23 (2007)

Posted in Thriller with tags , on July 7, 2014 by The Confused Critic

(*1/2 out of ****)

The Number 23

(Originally written for The Boston College Heights on 2/26/2007)

In The Number 23, Jim Carrey plays Walter Sparrow, a dogcatcher who leads a seemingly normal life with his wife (Virginia Madsen) and son, Robin (Logan Lerman) – yes, the kid’s name is Robin Sparrow. When a book that shares the movie’s title comes into Walter’s life, everything changes. The book, written by a Topsy Kretts, follows the life of a detective named Fingerling who is cursed by the number 23. Everything adds up to 23 and his resulting paranoia drives him to become a killer. As he reads on, Walter realizes that there are more than a few similarities between his life and Fingerling’s.

This discovery sends Walter into a state of paranoia much akin to that of Jack Nicholson in The Shining, minus the subtle buildup and character exploration. The movie spends a good deal of time jumping back and forth between real time and a depiction of the events that Carrey is reading. The flashbacks of the book are presented in a film noir style that is visually appealing, yet clashes with the tone of the rest of the film.

The first problem with this film is newcomer Fernley Phillips’ script. It is hard to recall another movie in recent history with a dialogue so forced as that found in The Number 23. Ridiculous lines are delivered with such a soap opera-like sense of profundity that one cannot help but laugh. For instance, was it really that much of a revelation when the characters realized that Topsy Kretts was not a real name, just a cute way of spelling out “top secrets?” It is especially painful to see Carrey and Madsen, two veteran actors, struggling to make their roles believable. Everything in this film just happens so fast that it is hard to care about any of the characters or their so-called struggles.

Furthermore, it is never entirely clear what exactly is so dangerous about 23. While it is interesting that everything adds up to the aforementioned number, it is difficult to see why it really matters. Some of these occurrences are downright ordinary. For example, at one point a character turns toward a clock that reads 11:12, which, if you had not guessed at this point, adds up to 23. Nevertheless, why should this seem so significant when such an event happens twice a day? The concept of 23 being an evil number is intriguing, but, unfortunately, most of its appearances in the film are purely coincidental.

All of this is not entirely surprising when you take a look at director Joel Schumacher’s track record. Many of you may remember him as the guy who ruined the Batman franchise in the late ’90s or as the director of Phone Booth. Schumacher is a classic case of relying on stylish gimmicks rather than providing the audience with an engaging story with well-developed characters.

In The Number 23 he borrows the visual nuances of M. Night Shyamalan and David Fincher, and, for some strange reason, decides to steal formulaic twists and turns from recent genre disappointments like Hide and Seek and Secret Window. Ultimately, there is nothing terribly interesting about The Number 23 or the actual number 23 itself. Perhaps the most dishonest thing about this movie is the fact that it was marketed as a horror film. There is nothing supernatural or particularly scary about 23. Instead, we just get a half-brained mystery with a “surprise ending” that could be guessed from viewing the 30-second TV spot. In the future, movie viewers should just stick to 13 as the universal unlucky number.