Web Exclusive: The Number 23

    “”The Number 23″” boasts some pretty original ideas and a rather unique cast, including a versatile performance from Jim Carrey — much like in previous reality-warping films like “”Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”” or “”The Truman Show”” — and the ever-pleasant Virginia Madsen. Director Joel Schumacher is also no stranger to creepy action films: His resume is packed full of little gems like “”Falling Down”” and “”Phone Booth.”” With so much potential, what could go wrong?

    The plot focuses on a happy family —a middle-class dogcatcher Walter Sparrow (Carrey), his wife Agatha (Madsen) and teenage son Robin (Logan Lermen). Walter seems like an ordinary guy, not too many friends, a bit bored with his job, but ultimately very tame. That is, until his wife buys him “”The Number 23,”” and his life begins mimicking the novel. The pages tell of Detective Fingerling, a no-holds-barred badass (Walter with some hair grease and a leather jacket) who has kinky sex with Fabrizia (Madsen in an ugly, dark wig).

    Instead of inspiring any real terror, Carrey plays the character practically for laughs. A bad costume and spooky voice aren’t convincing enough to scare anyone into believing that Carrey would even smack a mailbox — but ever-convinced of his clever guise, Carrey traipses along deeper and deeper into the psychosis of Fingerling, who is likewise convinced that the number 23 is a clue or a curse that kills anyone who repeatedly recognizes it. Under the frantic watch of his doting wife and psychologist Miles Phoenix, Walter scrambles to figure out who murdered a girl resembling Fabrizia some 16 years ago. The resulting twists and turns are what ultimately fail the movie, the at-first-curious connections between the novel, the number and Walter becoming more and more strained.

    The major shortcomings lay embedded in the film’s duplicitous nature and overambitious character choices (though the fault doesn’t lie with sweet-faced Madsen, who by now plays the loyal wife like a pro). The fault lies with Carrey and the deceptive originality with which the film is advertised. The movie offers the tantalizing tidbit of a real-life number-23 theory, but it’s drenched in second-hand psycho-thriller garbage. “”The Number 23″” has been made before — it’s just wearing a nicer, more modern outfit.

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