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  Number 23, The It Doesn't Add Up
Year: 2007
Director: Joel Schumacher
Stars: Jim Carrey, Virginia Madsen, Logan Lerman, Danny Huston, Lynn Collins, Rhona Mitra, Michelle Arthur, Mark Pellegrino, Paul Butcher, David Stifel, Corey Stoll, Ed Lauter, Troy Kotsur, Walter Soo Hoo, Patricia Belcher, Bob Zmuda, Bud Cort
Genre: Horror, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  3 (from 1 vote)
Review: Walter Sparrow (Jim Carrey) is a stray dog catcher who one day, just as he was about to leave work, got a call in from the pound that there was one more animal in need of capturing. He protested that he had one minute to go before heading home, but couldn't get out of it, believing it was because of a snub he had made at the office Christmas party, so as ordered went over to a restaurant where a dog was acting aggressively. He used his usual technique on the hound, but ended up being bitten by and it got away, with the result he was late picking up his wife Agatha (Virginia Madsen)...

Which is where Walter's problems truly begin, because she has wandered into a second hand book store and picked up an apparently self-published novel called, you guessed it, The Number 23, which it states on the cover was penned by one Topsy Kretts. Now, that's an obvious pun, but for some reason Walter doesn't pick up on it; however we are supposed to accept that one read of his book will send him into a labyrinth of conspiracy and paranoia, and all thanks to him realising that lots of things add up to twenty-three. That's right, after a while it seems as though around half the movie is going to be Jim Carrey doing sums.

And all sums which add up to 23, which is about as tedious as that sounds in a film that stood as a thriller/horror hybrid, strongly hinted at sinister machinations making the world go round which don't create any sort of bigger picture, then forgot about that for a pat ending. William S. Burroughs was credited as the man who noticed the strange significance of the number 23 often cropping up, though it was Robert Anton Wilson who popularised it, noting such facts as The Unabomber killed or wounded 23 people, Princess Leia was held in cell AA-23 on the Death Star, and best of all Shakespeare was 46 (23 twice) when the King James Bible was published, in which Psalm 46 has "shake" as its 46th word and "spear" as the 46th word counting backwards.

Which might make you wonder why not have 46 as the number of great significance, but you can see once you begin to perceive these connections, there's no end to the permutations you can conjure up. Yet this film never really commits to saying whether Walter is off his rocker or there is an actual force at work, it's pretty much up to you how much you accept, and it's likely after hearing about these coincidences for ninety minutes or so you'll be happy if nobody ever points them out again. The script by Fernley Phillips is never happier than when it's discombobulating its main character, and that doesn't half grow tiresome when the explanation, when it arrives, is like something out of a pulp paperback.

Not that pulp paperbacks can't be fun, but you were expecting something more clever than what amounted to a dumbed down version of David Lynch's Lost Highway (Walter even plays the saxophone). The more the protagonist reads the book, the more links he makes to his life and the further he descends into madness, as his wife stands by and tries to reason with him, but then exhibits some odd behaviour herself which we're intended to view as her trying to snap Walter out of it. There could have been some fun to be had here, and for a few minutes it looks fairly promising, but as Carrey jokes around then asks us to take him very seriously there goes any enjoyment too. If the filmmakers had designed some ever crazier spiralling conspiracy that took in all sorts of cultural landmarks then they might have been onto something, as it is the further this progresses the smaller in scope it gets, and the lengthy finale where Walter tells us what was going on is beyond boring. Music by Harry Gregson-Williams.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Joel Schumacher  (1939 - )

American director and occasional writer who rather unfairly won a reputation as one of the worst in Hollywood when he was really only as good as the material he was given. Starting as a costume designer (working with Woody Allen), he went onto a couple of TV movies - screenwriting Car Wash, Sparkle and The Wiz between them - and then a feature, spoof The Incredible Shrinking Woman. D.C. Cab followed, then a couple of eighties-defining teen hits, St. Elmo's Fire and The Lost Boys, and remake Cousins.

In the nineties, he was offered higher profile movies, including supernatural Flatliners, cult urban nightmare Falling Down, John Grisham adaptations The Client and A Time To Kill, blockbusting camp Batman Forever and the much-maligned Batman & Robin, and grotty 8MM. 1999's Flawless signalled a change to smaller scale works: army drama Tigerland, true life tale Veronica Guerin and thriller Phone Booth. Lavish musical The Phantom of the Opera (Andrew Lloyd Webber was a Lost Boys fan) was a return to the overblown blockbusters, but it flopped, as did his conspiracy thriller The Number 23.

 
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