Reviewing the Reviews: 'The Number 23'

23_lReading the universal pans that this Joel Schumacher-directed Jim Carrey thriller is receiving reminded me of an idea for a TV show I heard Trey Parker and Matt Stone joke about a few years back. It would be called Who Made Stinky?, they said, and after interviewing everyone involved in the making of a sh—y movie that should have been good, it would determine who’s to blame for the stinker.

Perhaps The Village Voice‘s Nathan Lee, who offers, by far, the best plot summary, would say it’s first-time writer Fernley Phillips: "The plot is beyond complicated, but it basically comes down to this: Omigod, 23! Omigod, 23!! Omigod, 23!!! Yet, for all its relentless number-crunching, this is really a movie about storytelling, and stories within stories, and stories within flashbacks within fantasies within madness — all of it unloaded with the help of exposition so preposterously contrived it borders on parody."

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution‘s Eleanor Ringel Gillespie faults the man at the helm: "The true culprit is director Joel Schumacher, of Batsuit nipple fame. Schumacher knows The Number 23 should look like something by one of the Davids — Lynch or Cronenberg. But he himself is a dismally pedestrian artist. Lacking their innate weirdness, all he can do is emptily ape their style. And no one wants to watch a by-the-numbers hack job — even if the movie is called The Number 23."

The Washington Post‘s Stephen Hunter, meanwhile, goes with a conspiracy theory: "Director Joel Schumacher and cinematographer Matthew Libatique are Carrey’s enablers. Schumacher gives the movie a jittery quality, as if he’s having a nervous breakdown, too, and a symptom seems to be that he puts lights in strange places. Libatique is also having a nervous breakdown, and his symptoms include the urge to splatter O-negative red everywhere."

addCredit(“The Number 23: Christine Loss”)

The critics naturally enjoyed making math puns — variations of "this movie doesn’t add up" being the most popular — but Las Vegas Weekly‘s Josh Bell takes it the furthest with his "Twenty-three things to look for while watching The Number 23." My personal fave: "The 23rd minute. It comes right after the 22nd, and before the 24th." The Arizona Daily Star‘s Phil Villarreal also offers his "Twenty-three reasons to avoid wasting your time with The Number 23. Sample: "Many scenes feature the Carrey character staring into a book. Gripping stuff."

The Minneapolis Star Tribune‘s Colin Covert, on the other hand, makes it sound slightly morelively but just as stupid: "In woozy fantasy sequences combining theworst of soft porn and film noir, dream-Carrey sports greasy hair, awife beater tank shirt and skinny arms covered with thorn tattoos. He’sa twerp’s fantasy of a tough stud. The sight of him all butched up andsweaty is presented as an intensely powerful aphrodisiac, and hefeverishly mauls hussies on rumpled sheets or against the walls oftrash-strewn apartments. It’s so cheesy that it’s almost transcendent."

In the end, one can say the film succeeds in eliciting strong reactions. Some are passive aggressive: Internet Reviews’ Steve Rhodes gives the film two-thirds of a star. Some are violent: CHUD‘s Devin Faraci says, "The Number 23is a movie as bad as any I have seen this decade. It is guaranteed aspot on my ten worst list because if there are ten other movies worsethan this one this year I will put my eyes out with my thumbs likeOedipus, and without the benefit of even having gotten laid."  And someare just plain weird: "The Number 23… is a 95-minute movie that takes 20 minutes to explain its ‘shocking premise,’" says‘s Mike Ward. "That’s not a good ratio; it’s kind of like a stripper agreeing to do a $5 lap dance to ‘Bohemian Rhapsody.’" Huh?

Comments (16 total) Add your comment
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  • Jaded1

    Those are some pretty brutal critiques.Jim Carrey said he is also obsessed with the number 23 in real life. He better pick a new one. Maybe 666 would work better.

  • mark in nyc

    Why does Joel Schumacher keep getting work? After he ruined Batman and the horrible Phantom of the Opera I had hoped no one would let him read a script much less make a movie again.

  • Ceballos

    Thank you for pointing out that last review Mandi…I’ll probably spend the rest of my day fruitlessly trying to figure out what that “$5 lap dance to Bohemian Rhapsody” line has to do with ANYTHING. At least now I have something to do.

  • hellagoodstripper

    The $5 lapdance thing is simple: it’s not smart for a stripper to charge $5 for a song that’s 9 minutes long. She can get $10 a pop for, say, Smells Like Teen Spirit at 2 and a half minutes. Simple economics. And boobs.

  • Anna

    I was about to post the same thing as Mark although I though Schumacher should have been stopped after St. Elmo’s Fire.

  • Mozz

    everytime I see the trailer for this movie, I wonder if the NUMBER 23, has anything to do with the LOST numbers, and the novel THE BAD TWIN, both from the tv show lost, but of course, the clear explanation is that the screenwriter has no originality and he simply stole the idea of giving a number some sort of mysterious connection. Truly, when did movie studios start ripping off tv shows, shouldn’t it be the other way around.

  • moonshake

    Robert Anton Wilson (The Illuminatus Trilogy etc) must be rolling in his grave over this stinker. Being such a fan of RAW and his 23 musings, I thought the #23 the movie might actually be an interesting. fnord.

  • Phil Villarreal

    Schumacher can be great (“Falling Down,” “Phone Booth”) – every 23rd film he makes maybe? – but most often he makes crap like this, the Batman films and “Bad Company.”

  • mike

    Instead of seeing 23, I’ll follow the advise of your Jim Carrey gallery and rent Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” yet, again.

  • Jane

    I have only loved one Joel Schumacker movie (Cousins) and liked a couple more (The Client, Falling Down) so I find myself constantly trying to forgive him. Half of the time he hits the right note, but when he fails, he fails miserably.

  • Jujube

    Ouch, bad reviews I like Jim Carrey (seems like a nice guy) and in the right role, he can be good, but he seems to be picking dud and after dud lately. Seems like many of the former $20 million/pic men are on a downward spiral (Tom Cruise, Mel Gibson…)

  • Fatima

    If only it would have gone slightly better reviews and then it could have gotten 23 percent on rotten tomatoes. And then our mind would blow. but not really cause its stupid.

  • bg 17

    Imagine if even another David had made this film: David Fincher. Why can’t Carrey use his considerable (former?) clout to work with some innovators instead of hacks? At this point I’d just be happy to see him work with even Tom Shadyac or the Farrelly bros. again.

  • titi

    Tom cruise in a “downward spiral”, jujube?
    Are you high?
    MI: III did very well at the box office and better in dvd.It’s a very good movie also. Stop reading tabloids! or leave this site.

  • becky

    i think the citics are litterally INSANE i loved this movie and its def one of my top three movies

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