There are at least 23 ways in which The Number 23 sucks. The most important revolves around its inability to distinguish creepiness from cliché. It fails to realize that there's not nearly enough weed on this planet for its supposedly deep observations to blow your mind. As a result, moments meant to instill fear either evoke boredom or, more often, the giggles.
The movie begins with what has to be the 23rd re-enactment of the Seven credits that were groundbreaking 12 years ago. They do, however, feature a treasure trove of fun facts about the number 23 such as the Mayans predicting that the world would end in 2012. 20 + 12 = 32, which is 23 backwards; get it? Like I said, not nearly enough weed. Article continues below
Watching 95 minutes of 23 trivia would actually be more entertaining than the film itself, but sadly it begins and we're introduced to mild-mannered animal control officer Walter Sparrow (Jim Carrey
). Through a series of coincidences (or are they!?), his wife Agatha (Virginia Madsen
) finds a novel called The Number 23 by one Topsy Kretts. And if you figured that one out already, you know you should skip this film.
She buys the book and as Walter reads it we're shown scenes from its lurid and increasingly cheesy plotline, which revolves around a detective's ultimately tragic obsession with the number in the title. Walter begins to see parallels in his own life. The detective found a woman's body when he was eight and Walter's mother died when he was eight. The detective's neighbor had a dog and so did Walter's! Before you can say "So what?" Walter goes nuts.
Part of the problem (let's call this one #12) is that the movie has no patience for Walter's madness. He goes from mildly curious to ape guano in about 20 minutes flat. If this film were watching The Shining, it would be shouting "Come on, Jack! Go crazy already!" And so Walter's desperate reaches to find the significance of 23 from the letters in his name to his birth date (he somehow misses Michael Jordan altogether) inspire more skepticism than dread and never reach a fever pitch since the audience is now constantly on the lookout for the number. The film never finds a way to surprise us with it.
Even this might be forgivable if the film didn't pile on the sloppy execution of an initially promising final act. In unraveling the mystery behind the book, we're subjected to creepy old buildings (and yes, they pull the old birds-flying-from-out-of-nowhere shtick that has never, ever scared anyone) and people writing on walls and themselves because, apparently, they're out of paper and/or hard drive space.
Finally, the film reaches a denouement in which it goes from unintentionally funny to unintentionally hilarious. Sadly, you can tell that somewhere in there was the kernel of a clever thriller that could have explored the ways in which the mind finds what it wants to find or the cyclical tragedies that can plague a family. Instead, between Joel Schumacher
's seeming inability to direct more than one good film a decade or Fernley Phillips' thinner-than-it-thinks screenplay, we're left with a premise that was better handled in an episode of 21 Jump Street in which Johnny Depp
becomes obsessed with the 3.3 seconds it takes for a gunman to kill his girlfriend. See? Jump and Street are two words and 21 + 2 equals 23!