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The Number 23 (2007)

New Line Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 7/24/2007

All Ratings out of
Extras: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 7/23/2007

There's nothing better than a good twist ending. Simply think of some of the most famous/popular movies ever made, and I guarantee that you'll find that many of them has a shocking finale. The best twist endings are simple, yet still very effective. If the twist can be summed up in one sentence, then it will most likely be a good one. However, there are some movies which feature very elaborate twists, which come crashing down onto the movie. The Jim Carrey thriller The Number 23 is one such film.

Carrey stars in The Number 23 as Walter Sparrow, a mild-mannered dog catcher. On his 32nd birthday, Walter's wife Agatha (Virginia Madsen) buys him a dog-eared book entitled The Number 23. Bemused by this odd gift, Walter begins to read the book, and suddenly finds himself engrossed in the story, which he states reminds him of his own life. The book concerns a detective named Fingerling (played by Carrey) who is in love with a mysterious woman named Fabrizia (played by Madsen). While questioning a young woman (Lynn Collins) who is threatening to kill herself, Fingerling learns of the woman's obsession with the number 23, which is supposedly everywhere if you look hard enough. At first, Walter finds himself unusually interested in the story, and then he begins to examine the number 23 himself. As he reads more and more of the book, Walter becomes convinced that the book is connected to his life and he will go to any length to prove this.

The Number 23 is a film which can be frustrating and challenging, yet it has a lot of things going for it. The story is complex, but it's also interesting as well, as the script follows both Walter in the real world, and Fingerling in the reality of book. The story isn't afraid to take risks, as we see the intertwining parts of the book and Walter's world, and the script adds layer upon layer to the film. Carrey and Madsen, along with supporting players Lynn Collins and Danny Huston are called up to play totally different characters in the different realities. Carrey is especially good here, as he's finally nailed the "everyman" character. In films like Liar Liar and Bruce Almighty, Carrey was supposed to be playing normal, down-to-Earth guys, but they always came across as unnaturally goofy...just like Carrey. Here, Carrey is able to play Walter as a common, decent guy who begins to experience some very weird things in his life.

Despite the fact that some people hate his work, I've liked Joel Schumacher since The Lost Boys because he's never afraid to bring style to a project. In Walter's world, Schumacher tones down the style somewhat, but allows red to come through as the signature color, as it serves as a precursor to strange events. However, Fingerling's world is wall-to-wall style, as it plays like a modern noir, filled with dark scenes, and at least one scene which is so white that it will make you squint.

The first half of The Number 23 is very good, and will draw in most viewers as we watch Walter's world begin to unravel. But, it's the second half of the movie where things fall apart. Given the banality of so many movies today, I never want to accuse any movie of being overwritten, but The Number 23 simply gets out of control as it piles on plotpoint upon plotpoint in both Walter and Fingerling's world. And while all of this is going on, the movie constantly pushes the number 23 theory on us, and we have characters going on and on about its power. A movie about someone becoming obsessed with 23 would have been good, and a movie where someone finds a novel which sounds like a dark version of their life (sort of like a twisted Stranger then Fiction) would have been good, but combining the two throws too much at the viewer. And then we have the big twist. The movie Silent Hill instantly came to mind which watching The Number 23 as both movies come to a screeching halt in order to explain the shock ending. The twist in The Number 23 takes several minutes to unfold and the viewer is asked to absorb a lot at once. The other problem here is that the explanation (and most of the second half of the movie) is very far-fetched. Even those who aren't overwhelmed by the twist will probably find themselves rolling their eyes at it.

The Number 23 is a promising film which simply can't close the deal. It's great to see Joel Schumacher helming a dark thriller for the first time in years, and although I still prefer Jim Carrey in comedic roles, he's very good here. The film isn't afraid to push the boundaries, both in terms of dark material, but also in the twists and turns of the story. But, there are a few too many turns and the movie loses sight of its central premise, leading to a questionable finale. The Number 23 is certainly worth seeing, but don't make it number one on your rental list.

The Number 23 learns to count on DVD courtesy of New Line Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The transfer is sharp and clear, as it's free from distracting grain and defects from the source material. For some of the Fingerling scenes, it's clear that Schumacher has manipulated the color, resulting in a grainy look, but, this adds to the style of the film. The colors are brilliant here, most notably the reds. I didn't note any video noise or overt artifacting. The DVD carries a Dolby Surround EX audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The film has a nice sound design, which is well-represented in this mix. The stereo effects are good, and the surround and subwoofer action really add to the movie. The audio features many off-screen noises which are well-placed in the appropriate speaker.

The Number 23 DVD release is form New Line's "Infinifilm" series, which means that it's loaded with extras. First of all, the DVD contains both the R-rated theatrical cut of the film, as well as an Unrated cut. This Unrated cut runs about four minutes longer than the theatrical cut. The main difference appears to be that the Unrated cut has some racier sex scenes. The extras begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from director Joel Schumacher. I'm fairly certain that this isn't Schumacher's first commentary, but he certainly acts as if it is, as he walks the viewer through it and lets us know when he's going to sip tea. How nice. Otherwise, his talk vacillates from scene-specific to anecdotal as he talks about the script, the actors, and the production. Schumacher is very complimentary to his crew, but doesn't really delve into what the story means. The DVD contains 16 DELETED SCENES which run about 14 minutes. Most of these are incidental, but several show how Walter can devote so much time to his obsession instead of work. The alternate ending isn't that different and is actually quite logical. "The Making of The Number 23" (22 minutes...what, not 23?) contains a lot of clips from the film with a number of spoilers, so make sure that you watch the movie first. This featurette has comments from the cast and crew and examines the script, actors, characters, and production design. Carrey, Madsen, and Collins discuss playing multiple characters. Schumacher talks about the look of the film in "Creating the World of Fingerling" (11 minutes). With "The 23 Enigma" (25 minutes) a group of mathematicians and a numerologist discuss the history of math and the power of numbers, most notably the meaning of each number. This is continued in "How to Find Your Life Path Numbers", which is eerily accurate. The film can be watched with a "Fact Track" which has "pop-up" notes on the film. Finally, the DVD contains the THEATRICAL TRAILER for the movie and it's 16 x 9.


On October 6, 2009, Warner Home Video brought The Number 23 to Blu-ray Disc. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains a VC-1 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 20 Mbps.  The image is very sharp and clear, showing no grain and no defects from the source material.  The colors in the fantasy sequences are amazing and leap off of the screen.  The noir scenes are never too dark -- the transfer is very well-balanced.  The level of detail is very good and the depth, again in the fantasy sequences, is very good.  The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 2.4 Mbps.  The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects.  The stereo effects are very good, as they are nicely detailed and show a noticeable amount of separation.  The surround sound effects are plentiful and add to the otherworldly feeling of some scenes.  The subwoofer effects work well also, but they never overwhelm the dialogue.

The Number 23 Blu-ray Disc contains the same extras as the DVD.  The only new extra is "Focus Points", which can be viewed during the theatrical version and offers picture-in-picture elements which detail the making of the movie.

Review Copyright 2007/2009 by Mike Long