Weirdness and kooky flashbacks abound in “The Number 23,” a film immersed in numerology and the perils of obsession.
Walter Sparrow (Jim Carrey) is a dogcatcher and a family man who lives a mundane, but happy, existence. Sparrow’s life descends into a downward spiral when his wife, Agatha (Virginia Madsen), gives him a book for his birthday. The book, written under the name of Topsy Kretts, contains a dark detective story shrouded by the number 23. It introduces Sparrow to Detective Fingerling (also played by Carrey), a no-nonsense detective who is doomed to suffer the curse of the number.
Sparrow becomes mesmerized with the tale and fixated on the number 23. The novel really starts to trouble Sparrow when he finds himself plagued with nightmares in which he brutally kills his wife. As the movie continues, it becomes apparent that not all the parallels are just coincidental, and Sparrow must figure out the meaning of 23 before he loses his sanity forever.
Numbers are the true stars of the film because they are mentioned non-stop throughout the movie. In fact, the film seems almost like a lecture for statistics class at times. Sparrow mentions that there are several historical events linked to the number 23. Eventually everything becomes a link to this number. If a conspiracy or event does not add up to 23, Sparrow plays with the math until he gets the correct answer — which is obviously 23. Thus, emotional obsession begins to obscure analytical mathematics.
On the side of acting, many fans are used to seeing Carrey portray crazy, comedic characters, so witnessing him act as a straight-up, dramatic nutcase is a nice change of pace. Carrey does his absolute best to prove he has what it takes to be a serious actor. In fact, he does so well it’s easy to forget that it is Jim Carrey on the screen, not a die-hard dramatic actor. Yet, because of his reputation, many audience members will find themselves remembering Carrey’s comedy, which might detract from the dramatic effect.
Director Joel Schumacher (”The Lost Boys,” “Phone Booth”) takes viewers on a journey into the realm of madness and then tries to double-back to reality, expecting everything to fall in place. This strategy, just like Schumacher’s movies, is hit-and-miss, resulting in some of the plot elements falling short.
Some of the flashback sequences are very artsy and impressive. The scenes involving Detective Fingerling are reminiscent of a dream and pay off on a visual level, but the story is lacking. It’s as if Schumacher decided to put everything he had into the image and style of the movie but neglected the storyline. Nevertheless, the script is not the worst manuscript ever translated to the screen.
The movie attempts to be a mind-numbing thriller and ends up as moderate fare. Fans of “The Serpent and the Rainbow” and “Jacob’s Ladder” will like “The Number 23” due to the weird, surrealistic atmosphere it projects. Everyone else should wait to check it out on DVD.

Grade: C+

Kelvin Boyd
Staff Writer