Killing time

Twenty-three things to look for while watching The Number 23

Josh Bell

1. Jim Carrey straining to be dark and brooding as Walter Sparrow, an animal control agent who finds a mysterious novel called The Number
23 and becomes obsessed with it, believing it to be about his life.

2. Carrey straining even harder to be menacing as Fingerling, the hard-boiled detective hero of the novel, who shows up in dramatizations of its prose.

3. Virginia Madsen as Walter's wife, Agatha, staring at Carrey in every one of their scenes like she has no idea what he's trying to do.

4. Danny Huston's
23rd performance as Smarmy Bureaucratic Guy.

5. All of the background dates, times, license plate numbers and addresses that add up to
23. Doing arithmetic helps distract you from how stupid the plot is.

6. The washed-out visuals and urban grime that, combined with the pseudo-industrial score, make the movie seem like it wants to be a Nine Inch Nails video. Jim Carrey does not belong in a Nine Inch Nails video.

7. The cameo from Bob Zmuda, longtime friend and collaborator of Andy Kaufman, whom Carrey played in the 1999 biopic Man on the Moon, as "Desk Clerk."

8. The droopy, hangdog mutt that's meant somehow to be Walter's nemesis and a harbinger of doom. His name is Ned, and he is adorable.

9. Carrey's Serious Hair, as Walter, competing with his Badass Hair, as Fingerling.

10. Madsen's horribly unconvincing jet-black wig as Fabrizia, Fingerling's femme fatale.

11. The affected, almost lispy way that Carrey delivers the narration in the noir segments, which makes it sound like he's mocking the material.

12. Every
23rd frame contains a hidden message. No, really. We swear.

13. The way that supreme hack Joel Schumacher clearly thinks he's got some serious insight into the nature of obsession, just like he did in his last incredibly silly thriller about a guy consumed by an urban legend, 8MM.

14. Carrey trying desperately to reduce his natural charm, which he's successfully brought to serious roles in films such as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and The Truman Show, and succeeding in being completely charmless.

15. A few early glimpses of Carrey's goofy ad-libs, demonstrating the very talent he's suppressing by appearing in this film.

16. The sexy and alluring Rhona Mitra, wasted in a handful of flashback sequences as a helpless victim.

17. The convoluted "twist" at the end, which takes practically
23 minutes of mind-numbing exposition to explain, and is still completely illogical.

18. The laughter from your fellow moviegoers as another "shocking" coincidence about the impact of the number
23 on history and human existence is revealed.

19. Really scary puns: The book's author is "Topsy Kretts," and a mysterious psychiatrist is named "Dr. Sirius Leary."

20. The
23rd minute. It comes right after the 22nd, and before the 24th.

21. The color red. It's on the walls, the cover of the book and a light bulb in an ominous room near the end. Perhaps it symbolizes some sort of danger.

22. Walter's son, who just goes along with his dad's insanity, thinking all this
23 business is pretty cool.

23. The end credits, so you know you can finally leave the theater.

  • Get More Stories from Thu, Feb 22, 2007
Top of Story