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John’s Horror Corner: The Number 23 (2007), a moderately over-the-top noirish thriller to sharpen Carrey’s dramatic acumen.

February 24, 2022

MY CALL:  A bit too much to be taken seriously as a thriller and not enough to scratch one’s horror itch, this remains an engaging movie if for nothing more than Carrey’s immersively obsessed performance. MORE MOVIES LIKE The Number 23: For more books that take reality too far, consider Stranger Than Fiction (2006) or Adaptation (2002).

Living a simple, uneventful, tedious but happily normal life, animal control officer Walter Sparrow (Jim Carrey; Once Bitten, The Bad Batch) one day chases a stray animal to the grave of Laura Tollins (Rhona Mitra; Skinwalkers, Hollow Man) on his birthday—February 3rd.

As someone with a fondness for Jim Carrey, I enjoyed seeing him in this unusual role. Carrey’s forays into drama (e.g., Man on the Moon, The Truman Show) have been my favorite performances by this warm, introspective, quirky man. And it is that very thoughtful, soulful, wanting introspection that makes this role work so well, particularly with respect to his narrations as Walter Sparrow reads from his birthday present: a book called “The Number 23.”

Walter finds suspiciously strong parallels to his own life in the book, and we witness his internal visualization of the story of a dark detective with an edgier Carrey as the character, and an edgier version of his wife Agatha (Virginia Madsen; Candyman, The Prophecy, Dune, Better Watch Out) as a sultry love interest. Moreover, Walter continues to find links between his life and the number 23.

Strong themes of suicide, betrayal and murder follow as the line between Walter’s life and his book begins to blur and his paranoia rapidly accelerates. The twisty-turny-ness of this movie gets far too elaborate for its own good and wanders past my own limits of a suspension of disbelief. But despite this, I find enjoyment in it.

Director Joel Schumacher’s (8mm, Flatliners, The Lost Boys) kinky noir foray into numerological mystery is perfectly enjoyable and interesting, even if ultimately nothing riveting. The performances forgive the mild shortcomings of the far-reaching plot, which digs a bit deeper than it should have perhaps.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. February 25, 2022 5:35 pm

    I like Jim Carrey but it seemed like this movie got such bad reviews. 😦 I do get a kick out of ‘The Lost Boys,’ though (my first horror movie.)

    • John Leavengood permalink
      February 25, 2022 6:16 pm

      The Lost Boys is so good! My first were Evil Dead 2 and NOES 4.

  2. February 27, 2022 12:50 pm

    This is another movie I wanted to like, really really wanted to like, since I had such high expectations and the plot seemed like it could spin out a great movie. But I just couldn’t get into it. I’ve never been able to explain why until I read your review where you stated it gets too elaborate for its own good. Perfectly stated. It was still enjoyable, Carrey played the role in excellent fashion, but I still just want to like it.

    • John Leavengood permalink
      February 27, 2022 12:59 pm

      Honestly, once we’re informed that the wife knew all along that he wrote the book and was essentially pulling a thriller-spun “50 First Dates” with him, pulling strings behind the scenes of his psyche, that really depleted my investment in it. It could have worked, I suppose, if there was a good reason for it. But there just wasn’t. It’s like the script realized it was wandering into bonkers town and just went with it.

  3. John Leavengood permalink
    February 27, 2022 1:27 pm

    Oh 23 Loony Street, Bonkerstown, USA. When your wife buys you a book that YOU wrote but don’t remember writing so you’ll fall down some obsessive rabbit hole (which she HAD to see coming) that literally resulted in the death of someone connected to the book… and your wife STILL hasn’t owned up to this madness…? Yeah, you’re in Bonkers Town.

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