STUDIO: New Line
MSRP: $28.98
RUNNING TIME: 101 Minutes
The Number 23 Enigma Documentary
How to Find Your Life Path Numbers Featurette
• Fact Tract Trivia
• 16 Deleted Scenes
• Director Commentary
• “Making of” Featurette
Creating the World of Fingerling Featurette

The Pitch

“A thriller about the number 23? What, were 42 and 69 already taken?”

The Humans

Jim Carrey, Virginia Madsen, Danny Huston, Logan Lerman

The Nutshell

Walter Sparrow is the luckiest dogcatcher you’ll ever meet. He’s got a hot-as-shit, Academy-Award-nominated wife, a spunky kid, and when he’s not indulging in passion projects like this one, he commands a twenty-five million dollar paycheck. Everything’s looking up Millhouse for our hero until he comes upon a book called The Number 23 about a burnt-out PI named Fingerling that threatens to destroy the very fabric of his existence.

That right there? Nine times more interesting than the actual movie.

"In the role of his career, Danny Huston is Robert Pastorelli."

The Lowdown

Whoo boy, is this movie a piece of shit!

I have no idea who the target audience for this one is. Despite Carrey’s presence, it’s not funny, it’s not uber-gay as per the course for the oeuvre of Joel Schumacher, and regardless of the big ole’ Unrated logo on the front, it’s really not that scary. This movie is just a mess. It’s a ludicrous and insipid waste of film. Maybe the mentally challenged might get something outta this one, but having worked a few Special Olympics, I’m pretty sure most mentally challenged folks would just hurl themselves at their TV in disgust. This, oddly enough, is a completely sane response.

I’ll concede—the setup is a solid one. The American family brought low by paranoia and fear, that’s an extremely fertile topic. Guys like Hitchcock and Rod Serling mined this idea for all it was worth back in their day, and given the very modern debates over the “death” of the traditional American family, it’s a subject that still holds merit today. More to the point, as a filmgoer, I was interested to see how Jim Carrey would approach said issue. He’s quite the actor when he’s not mugging wildly through his anus, and the previews seemed to indicate him tackling some truly dark and disturbing material. Plus, as much as I hate on Joel Schumacher, when he works with limited means (Phone Booth, Tigerland, D.C. Cab), he can turn out a solid project. Point is, I wasn’t going into this one in Negative Nancy-mode.

This was a mistake.

I tend to tune out when shit starts looking like the love scene from Excalibur met up with Swamp Thing.

This movie is kinda like a Twilight Zone episode, but a really shitty one with an ending straight outta Shyamalan-land. It’d be as if "The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street" was told from the POV of a schizophrenic who, in the last reel, finds out he’s really a dolphin. Seriously. This is one of those flicks that starts at “dumb” and only downshifts from there. Why is Carrey’s character a dogcatcher? More to the point, why should an actual dog factor seriously into the plot? Does anyone think “Topsy Kretts” works on any level as a fake name? Do Madsen and Lerman’s characters (wife and son, respectively) ever not resemble plot devices? Who expects us to find the number 23 menacing? How in God’s name does the Fingerling stuff remotely connect to Walter’s real life? I get why it has to, but honestly, Fingerling’s life and Walter’s life are so wildly disparate it would be like Lindsey Lohan reading a book about Mother Teresa and finding numerous similarities. Why would anyone try and equate Jim Carrey with Humphrey Bogart? Why is Danny Huston in this movie? And why the hell would Walter’s character go through all this trouble to hide the fact that…

I’m not gonna say, ‘cause some of you might want to see this (pity), and I don’t wanna be that guy, but rest assured that it a) is nonsensical, b) seriously calls into question the value systems of many of the main characters, and c) may induce diarrhea.

This movie is so spectacularly dumb, and yet, I can’t even really recommend it as a guilty pleasure. For all the stupid shit that occurs (and believe me, I haven’t even scratched the surface with this review), it’s not over-heated enough. It needs to be pulpier, more over-the-top. Problem is, you get the sense (and this is confirmed in the special features), that all parties concerned take this flick a little too seriously. That they buy into the eeevvillll powers concerning the number 23. And it saps the fun right out of the flick. Right the fuck out.

"What does Funnyman have to do to change his image, huh? Does Funnyman have to kill this bitch?  Okay, I’ll kill this bitch!"

So what’s good? Danny Huston, for one. He gave the best performance I saw all last year (in The Proposition, buy it here and fucking tell me I’m wrong), and he’s the only one who approaches the material the way it should be approached: retarded and with a great deal of sleazy glee. And DP Matthew Libatique’s cinematography is terrific—he shoots this fucker like a comic book, full of harsh reds and inky blacks. The Fingerling stuff, be they the dumbest parts of the film, look the best due to Libatique’s work.

But that’s it. This movie is trash. Who’d a thunk Carrey’s obsession with that stupid number would’ a sunk his career with this shitty movie? Maybe it really is evil…

The Package

At least it looks and sounds good; Libatique’s terrific work is well-represented (and well it should be—the flick’s barely six months old) here, and the sound, particularly the EX track, is very impressive. It’s a touch too bombastic, but I blame the film, not the DVD. I do like the box, what with Carrey’s tortured visage peering through the cover of the book. It’s cleverly designed, and I appreciate that.

This is an “Infinifilm Series” disc, and while their stuff has been good in the past (13 Days, Nightmare on Elm Street), the features here are kinda weak. Come with me, yes?

Schumacher’s commentary pretty much confirms what I’ve always suspected about him: he’s a bit of a blowhard who’s way too proud of his own work. It’s not a bad commentary, but I certainly can’t support all the back-slapping he does. Though I agree with him that he did a good job of stretching the relatively limited budget for the flick, he could’ a done everyone a favor and simply set the money on fire. That would have been an even better use. Better yet, there are people dying in Darfur—perhaps they could use some money? Still, his track was better than the fact track, which, when it wasn’t repeating information, was giving out pointless ones. I shouldn’t be surprised, but still…

The sixteen deleted scenes are mostly useless, except for the ending. I thought it was a hair better than the one in the flick. The “Making Of” featurette is promotional gobblety-gook, while the feature on Fingerling’s world fares better if only because it highlights the most visually interesting bit of the movie.

The bit on the “life-path” numbers is New Agey, stupid Hippy crap. Avoid it. And the Enigma documentary only confirms what the movie suggests; that everyone takes this number a wee bit too seriously. I don’t care that it’s connected to the I Ching and Kabbalah, and I don’t think I ever will.

You know what would’ve made this movie better, ironically? If it was only 23 minutes long. As it is, it’s a bit…lacking. I can’t even recommend it to connoisseurs of trash cinema. While the DVD sound and picture are solid, the features straddle the line between “filler” and “lame.” Buy hey, man, it’s your trip.

Now this is fucking scary.

1.5 out of 10