Friday, May 7, 2010

Archive: "The Number 23" (2007)

Poor everybody who unfortunately had to be involved in this wreck of a movie. "The Number 23" looked fascinating, dark, disturbing, and intriguing. So, you must be wondering by now, what went wrong? Well, a number of things, actually (if it's 23 of them, I wouldn't really know). The problem is that the movie collectively tries really, really hard to be all of the things I mentioned above but miserably fails to achieve any of those descriptors.

Walter Sparrow (Jim Carrey) is an animal control specialist, and the movie opens on a most unfortunate day for him; this day is his birthday, February 3rd (watch out), and he is late to pick up his wife, Agatha (Virginia Madsen). While waiting for her husband, Agatha stops in at a used bookstore and picks up a red-covered book titled "The Number 23," a story of obsession. If it weren't for Walter being late to get his wife, she never would have picked up the book, and none of the proceeding events would ever have happened. Agatha reads this book and becomes fascinated by it and then tosses it to Walter to read for himself. He dives in and slowly discovers that he has strangely a lot in common with the author.

Soon enough, the most disturbing thing he finds in common with this mysterious author named Topsy Kretts, or Fingerling, is his obsession with the number 23. In reading deeper, Walter begins finding bizarre connections to this seemingly random number within his own life. Walter's obsession grows to the point that he fears he will fall to the same fate of the author who went insane and even killed because of the number. This story Walter is reading is shown in a blurry noir fashion that becomes downright laughable. Jim Carrey plays Fingerling, the character inside the story, and Virginia Madsen plays Fingerling's lover, Fabrizia. So with these blatant parallels, too much is already given away and these ridiculously stupid flashbacks become devoid of anything at all useful.

The worst part is that these insights into the novel take up a good majority of the movie, and they really are awful. The noir style is meant to be gritty and disturbing but it turns to bizarre stupidity and melodramatic sludge. Luckily though, Walter finally comes to what appears to be the end of the novel, which means the end of bad flashbacks, as well. It's only at this point that the movie musters up any intrigue in real life things that start happening with Walter trying to save himself and his family from this deranged new obsession. Even his son, Robin (Logan Lerman), finds a fascination in the number and all the connections Walter is finding. Soon enough, Agatha even helps, if only to make the whole thing end.

That all really does not even matter because none of it adds up anyway, contrary to what the movie is persuading us to believe. Nothing is carried out with excitement as it would be in a quality thriller. The problem here is that it's not at all thrilling; the only mildly enticing aspect here is how many connections Walter can actually make to that damned number, and even that gets tiring. One of the most blatantly disturbing allusions to the real world and this number is when there is a shot of "9 11 2001" scrawled on Walter's wrist. Thanks, but no thanks on that one.

The one thing that actually isn't wrong with this movie is the acting because two very fine actors have been collected for the parts; what's wrong is everything that these fine actors are partaking in. A slew of dull twists within the convoluted and uninteresting story lead up to an anticlimactic bad ending that the audience already sees coming. I mean, c'mon, those infinite amount of flashbacks gave enough away already. And so, what's meant to be shocking and revolutionary becomes mundane and repetitive; worse yet, once the bad ending is revealed, we spend another good while getting a long-winded explanation of this bad ending. This does not clarify the ending, but rather assures us that, yep, this ending sucks. A lot.

To go along with this, we're given a message on life as if we're supposed to get something useful out of seeing this badly executed thriller. I'm sorry, but no amount of pot or other hallucinogenic drug is going to make these messages have any emotional resonance or even relevance. Unless you're completely out of it 99% of the time, I think everybody pretty much already knows that you're in control of what happens in your life and that no little number can take over. Anyway, if you're still itching to see this movie, instead of trying to watch it, you might have a more enjoyable time trying to catch all of the 23s within each scene. I know I did.

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