With a dismal eight percent on the TomatoMeter 'The Number 23's film debut was anything but grand. It was lambasted by critics everywhere. Do I feel the same way? Well, to a certain degree I do. At times the film does feel sloppily put together, and at times you don't know if Carrey is trying to be funny or not. We know Carrey can act, we've seen him in 'Eternal Sunshine and the Spotless Mind,' and 'The Truman Show.' Both of those films were well-acted, serious pieces. In 'The Number 23' Carrey is stuck in a film that seems confused as to what it should be. Is it a horror film? Murder mystery? Sylized film noir?
After his wife (Virginia Madsen) buys him a book, animal control officer Walter Sparrow (Jim Carrey) becomes obsessed with its contents. The book strangely reflects his own life as a young child. The main character in the book is called Fingerling, he's a detective.
As he pictures the book's story, Carrey stars as Fingerling, a tough detective covered in tribal tattoos, with a penchant for kinky sex with his girlfriend. He becomes obsessed with the number twenty-three after meeting with a blonde woman who had been threatening to commit suicide because of the number. She said it had infected her life. It was out to get her.
Schumacher gives 'The Number 23' a perfect style. The scenes from the book Sparrow is reading are filmed in a stylized, noir-like fashion. The opening sequence of the book is rendered in beautifully done CGI, that is explained in the special features as "two and a half 'D.'" It's like watching a live-action pop-up book.
Sparrow soon starts to see the number twenty-three everywhere in his life, driving him into a state of paranoia. It seems every number, by using crazy arithmetic, equals twenty-three.
Sparrow's decent into madness is oddly interesting to watch. Joel Schumacher's directorial style is in your face, and completely hammed up so you don't miss anything that's going on. There's no thinking for yourself going on here. The film spells everything out for you.
Parts of the film are enjoyable, and somewhat creepy. I enjoyed most of Carrey's acting as Fingerling and Sparrow, but at times he still can't leave his worn out voice acting, ala 'Ace Ventura' at the door. There are a few times he slips up, creating an air of comedy rather than suspense.
'The Number 23' builds and builds so much that it's hard to justify its semi-witless ending. Maybe just a step above "it was all a dream," 'The Number 23' just kind of settles for an ending rather than creating and interesting one.
In the end though, 'The Number 23' is a messy movie, but slightly entertaining nonetheless. The ending seems like a cop-out, but I actually did enjoy the stylized noir-like parts. I think that this came across to many people as style over substance. I can see where they're coming from, but at least the style is enjoyable.
The 1080p/VC-1 encoded transfer for 'The Number 23' only adds to its stylized cinematography. The film is full of deeply rich primary colors, especially red. The colors are rendered here to perfection. No so much popping off the screen, but rather embedded solidly in it. The bright red wall in the Sparrow household is a perfect example of the dark and brooding color palette used here. Fine detail is also optimal. On that same red wall brush strokes and imperfections from underneath the paint are clearly visible. Contrast is well done, juxtaposing reds and blacks in one scene, only to switch to burning hot whites in another. The scene with the "suicide blonde" is handled fantasically. Everything is covered in white and purposefully overexposed to give the blonde an angelic like appearance. Fingerling's dark clothes are perfectly contrasted with the shimmering white walls. No significant technical anomalies like blocking or aliasing were detected. A few of the darker scenes suffered, only slightly, from some poor delineation. Nit-picking aside, this transfer does this stylized movie justice.
'The Number 23's DTS-HD Master Audio 6.1 audio track is alive with loads of foreboding noises and some very active LFE. It's an engrossing sound mix that lends itself well to building suspense, and creating an encompassing feel. Rear channels are, for the most part, lively and resonant with the film's soundtrack and ambient noise. Dialogue is presented clearly through the center channel. Panning effects are smoothly transitioned, and sound effects, like Sparrow tearing off wall paper or the distant bark of a dog, are clean and precise.
The theatrical and the extended edition are both provided here using seamless branching. The extended cut, as far as I can tell, adds only three minutes (boosting its 98 minute runtime to 101) of footage that is a little more steamy when it comes to the sex scenes in Fingerling's world.
'The Number 23' is definitely a case of style over substance, but the style can be fun at times. Carrey's acting is mostly spot on, but sometimes veers off into his old 'Ace Ventura' type voices. The video presentation stays true to the stylistic nature of the film, and the audio adds a wonderfully engrossing atmosphere. I'm designating it a rental though, because it doesn't offer much playback value. Once you've watched it, I think you'll be hard-pressed to find another time to play it again.