It's been discussed that a lot of comics feed off some sort of darkness within them or from their past. As funny as Jim Carrey has been in shows like "In Living Color" and films like "Ace Ventura", there's a darker side of Carrey, the surface of which was explored in Ben Stiller's infamous "The Cable Guy".
"The Number 23" is the latest from infamous director Joel Schumacher, and while the picture isn't without some serious issues (this isn't a good movie, but it's an interesting failure), it does show a darker side of the comedian that is mostly engaging. The film stars Carrey as Walter Sparrow, a dog catcher living a rather mundane existence in the suburbs with a wife (Virginia Madsen) and a child (Logan Lerman). Walter's wife buys him a used book called, "The Number 23" for his birthday, which sets the events of the story into motion.
As Walter sits down to read the book (which was written by Topsy Kretts... get it?), he continues to find bizarre coincidences (with minor differences, too, of course) to his own life that become more and more eerie as the chapters progress. The book follows a detective named Fingerling (also Carrey in the film's reinactments of scenes from the book), who has a torrid romp with a noirish woman named Fabrizia (Madsen again). Walter begins to believe that the book has been written about him, and he begins to take on Fingerling's obsession with the fact that the number 23 seems to be within just about every aspect of his life, quickly growing mad.
Is Walter really just freaking nuts or are his constant encounters with the number 23 leading him to a darker and more sinster revelation than he could have ever thought possible? The movie's main fault is that it takes too long to build to the reveal and once we get to the reveal, nor only is it ridiculous, but it takes away from everything that's come before it. After the reveal, the end of the movie begins to unravel quicker than Walter.
Carrey always seem to have a streak of madness within him, and he plays Walter about as well as possible, considering that the material has him quickly going from everyday guy to paranoid and obsessed. The scenes with Carrey playing the detective don't work as well, although that's largely because these scenes are so overdone (while cinematographer Matthew Libatique has done amazing work in the past, Schumacher allows him to go overboard with the style here) that they have moments where they verge on being noir parody. Madsen (playing "bland, concerned wife" once again) and Lerman are completely wasted in nothing roles.
The plot is a contrived mess, but there's potential within it to really go all out into the abyss. Things, however, are not as complicated as they seem, which makes for a movie that adds up a lot only to get less. The whole business about the number 23 is a bit much to buy into, but it's enough of a hook for those willing to go all the way with it, which writer Fernley Phillips and director Joel Schumacher aren't - the big "reveal" feels like it's been done before.
The DVD contains both the unrated and theatrical cuts of the film. The unrated edition doesn't offer too much more, clocking in at only 3 more minutes.
VIDEO: "The Number 23" is presented by New Line Home Entertainment in 2.3(23!)5:1 anamorphic widescreen. The presentation quality isn't without some minor concerns, but mostly was above-average. Sharpness and detail were inconsistent, but the majority of the film looked crisp and clean, even in the many murky dark scenes in the film. Some minor artifacting was spotted, but no edge enhancement or other issues were spotted. Colors appeared heavily manipulated, but seemed accurate to the film's intentional look.
SOUND: The film's Dolby Digital 5.1-EX soundtrack offered up a lot of thrills and chills, with the surrounds kicking in spooky, atmospheric effects and ambience in many scenes. Dialogue-driven sequences still remain enjoyably eerie. Audio quality is fine, with crisp dialogue and punchy effects.
EXTRAS: Director Joel Schumacher offers an audio commentary for the film. We also get a series of featurettes ("The Number 23 Enigma", "How to Find Your Life Path Numbers", "Making Of" and "Creating the World of Fingerling"), as well as an optional subtitle fact track, 16 deleted scenes including an alternate ending and the film's trailer (and the trailer's an instance of the trailer being better than the film.)
Final Thoughts: "The Number 23" has potential buried within, but the movie never quite adds up, and once the reveal occurs, the movie begins to fall flat. The DVD presentation offers excellent audio/video quality, as well as a nice set of extras. Still, this one's a renter only for fans of Carrey who want to see him try - if not entirely succeed - at something different.
The Film C