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Sunday, February 25, 2007

REVIEW - "The Number 23" (2007)

The first thing I need to stress is that "The Number 23" is not a bad movie; it's just not a very good one either. So if I favor either side in this review it probably means that I'm still a bit confused by it. Not the story itself, the story makes complete sense. However, director Joel Schumacher ("The Phantom of the Opera", "Phone Booth", "Batman Forever", "Batman & Robin") wasn't really sure what kind of atmosphere he wanted for this movie.

Jim Carrey plays Walter Sparrow, a dog-catcher who becomes obsessed with a book called...guess. Anyway, his wife gives him the book for his birthday and he begins reading about a character that becomes obsessed with the number "23" and adds up wild conclusions about the number--Conclusions like the letters of a person's name adding up to 23, dates of horrible events being reworked in to 23...etc...etc... Soon Walter becomes infatuated with 23 as well and adds up the same conclusions. The only difference is that the events in the book seem to parellel his own life. Coincidence? Or has good ole Walter lost it?

The movie plays out like a very dark Sesame Street episode-- A whole show dedicated to 23 and how many different ways you can add up to it. Luckily Carrey's character isn't just adding up wild conclusions for too long and 23 actually does end up leading him to some answers. One thing to understand is that Walter is so infatuated with the simularities between him and the book that it appears he's trying to find the number everywhere. The movie will undoubtedly get slammed for all the incoherent conclusions drawn to the sum of 23; but then again Schumacher doesn't make it obvious enough that Walter is simply looking for the number.

On top of that, the character development seems to happen too fast. One moment he's sane and the next he's obsessively looking through childhood memories to make a link with the book. Perhaps I didn't find the similarities too startling-- Atleast not startling enough to go digging through my four-year-old reading material. But I guess that's not too big of a deal anyway. I simply wish the character had a smoother transition to obsession than what was presented. It just didn't feel right.

The movie is told in two worlds, the reality in which Walter lives and the universe in which the book's main character, "Fingerling" (played by Carrey), resides. At first it seems like the book universe will be told in a very stylized, overexposed world-- But it gets harder to distinguish as the movie goes on. The look of the book's world slips too far away from how it started. In the end it just looked and sounded inconsistent.

Jim Carrey does a great job acting as both characters and is probably the most consistant thing in the movie. With the rather disjointed material given to him he developed the character as well as he could and proved, again, that he's cut out for a role outside comedy. I'd like to see him in a more clear cut thriller if he's ever willing to be in a role like that again though. His one flaw was his narration for the book. It was like he was trying to do one of his comedic, character voices. What should've sounded grim ended up sounding a bit too comical.

The idea is enthralling, but the result is sloppy. Despite the flaws "The Number 23" has some visually appealing stuff to it and has a compelling enough story that strays from being too obvious. If the previews sold you to see this movie, it ends up being something you didn't expect. Whether that's a good or bad thing seems to be in the air because the movie has a hard enough time finding its own look and feel. Is it a narrative told as a flashback? It starts that way. Is the book's reality suppose to be over the top, ala "Sin City", or based a bit more in reality? Should the movie be looked at as a psychological thriller? Or a psychological horror? The book's reality appears to be the latter, but Walter's existence seems to be the former. I don't know. It's a fun movie; it's somewhat goofy and really incoherent, but atleast it was enjoyable. In this mess Jim Carrey salvages enough character material to keep us caring about Walter and his quest to find the meaning of 23.

** out of ****

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