The Number 23

There's a mess of things wrong with this suspense thriller. t with he fact that it's neither suspenseful nor thrilling. The so-called original screenplay is by first-timer Fernley Phillips. But it's right out f the doppelgänger creep shows that Stephen King did to a scary turn n The Dark Half and Secret Window.

Jim Carrey, channeling Jack Nicholson in The Shining, plays Walter Sparrow. He's a dogcatcher (an Ace Ventura homage?) with a hot wife Virginia Madsen) and an adoring teen son (Logan Lerman). Then Walter picks up The Number 23. It's a book about a detective named Fingerling, also played by Carrey. The dick is a nut job and possible murderer who strikes personal chords with Walter. You see, there are things in Walter's past he has repressed. Fingerling is fixated on the number 23. Maybe you are, too. It's a cult. Do you find meaning in knowing that, say, Kurt Cobain died in 1994: 1 + 9 + 9 + 4 = 23?

Me, I'd like 23 reasons from the Academy why Carrey wasn't Oscar-nominated for The Truman Show, Man on the Moon and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Still, our boy is floundering here. Not because the role isn't comic, but because it's so comically intense. The tattoos, the glary eyes, the strained tendons and — ohmigod — all that bloooood. They seem like overcompensation for a movie that never achieves liftoff. Director Joel Schumacher, working with the great cinematographer Matthew Libatique (Requiem for a Dream), shines up the oldest tricks in the book. But I find the thick wad of improbabilities in this junk impossible to swallow. Wait a sec, I think I just wrote sentence 23.

From The Archives Issue 116: August 31, 1972