Press "Enter" to skip to content

The Number 23 has good direction, mediocre acting

Courtesy of New Line Cinema

Move over 13, The Number 23 deals with a real deadly number.

In this thriller, mild-mannered dog catcher Walter takes a dip into Freudian fixation when he reads The Number 23, a book about a detective’s murderous obsession with reducing everything to the number 23. Problems abound when life imitates art: Walter and the murderer share similar pasts, and Walter sees 23s everywhere.

The central mystery is fascinating and the book scenes play like film noir on steroids.

The scene chewing, the alternations between shadowy and overbright shots, the atmosphere of certain doom: these scenes were all worth the price of admission.

Unfortunately, the movie ruined everything with lackluster family scenes and a twist ending that sucks away every ounce of credibility. Not only does the “solution” not fit in the film’s timeline, but the end is so syrupy that it should have “made by Aunt Jamima” stamped in the celluloid.

Jim Carrey tries to carry his duo roles as the protagonist and Humphrey Bogart wannabe alter ego. Fans expecting classic Carrey detective animal worker shtick will be disappointed. His haunted murder is a series of poses so blatant that even couples making out will notice his macho personality. This is perfect for the hyper-reality this character lives in. The normal character falls flat: a loser rather than a guy with a self-deprecating sense of humor.

Walter’s family doesn’t fare much better. Both Virginia Madsen as wife Agatha and Logan Lerman as son Robin are fine actors, but they have nothing to work with.

The only purpose these two have is to back up Walter’s increasingly erratic behavior to a point that they should be jailed for fatal stupidity.

Suicide Blonde, played by Lynn Collins, has the benefit of being one of the few characters who have a good actor and part. Starting with her entrance with a noose around her neck, she is a striking mix of pathos and beauty. It makes a film fanatic wish her scene was longer.

At least the direction of Batman and Robin alumnus Joel Schumacher is spot on.

The best part of the movie is the billions of 23 references he packs in. Neon signs with letters burnt out so only 23 are visible and clocks perpetually set with times like 11:12 abound.

This film is recommended as long as the audience follows a procedure: stick fingers in ears until Carrey buys book, enjoy mystery in the middle and leave when a certain box comes on screen. The mystery is worth missing the end.

Be careful, though, because watching this film may increase the desire to pick out the number 23 in real life.

This R-rated flick is now playing at Shattuck Cinemas in Berkeley and the United Artists Emery Bay Stadium 10 in Emeryville.