The Number 23 (2007) - Unrated Infinifilm Edition

Genre(s): Drama / Mystery / Thriller
New Line || Unrated - 101 minutes - $28.98 || July 24, 2007
Reviewer: Brian Oliver || Posted On: 2007-07-09


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.:: F I L M ::.
The Film

S P E C I A L
.: F E A T U R E S :.

Special Features

A U D I O &
.:: V I D E O ::.

Audio and Video

.:: O V E R A L L ::.
Overall
.::MOVIE INFORMATION::.
Director: Joel Schumacher
Writer(s): Fernley Phillips (written by)
Cast: Jim Carrey, Virginia Madsen, Logan Lerman, Danny Huston, Lynn Collins, Rhona Mitra


Theatrical Release Date: February 23, 2007


.::DVD INFORMATION::.
Supplemental Material:
  • Director Commentary
  • Deleted/Alternate Scenes
  • "Making of The Number 23" Featurette
  • "Creating the World of Fingerling" Featurette
  • "The 23 Enigma" Documentary
  • How to Find Your Path Numbers
  • Fact Track Trivia


Technical Information:
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Widescreen (2.35)
  • English (Dolby Digital 5.1 EX), English (Dolby Digital Stereo)
  • Subtitles: English, French

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.::THE FILM::.

IMAGE

Plot (from DVD back cover): The nightmare begins when Walter Sparrow (Carrey), a mild-mannered dogcatcher, begins reading a tattered, used book called “The Number 23”. Obsessed by the countless similarities between the degenerate main character and himself, Walter plunges headlong into the same dark, seductive world. When the book’s main character commits an unspeakable act, Walter is terrified that he’s destined to follow the same twisted path.

Jim Carrey is an actor who is equally good at drama as he is at comedy. If you’ve seen The Truman Show, you get the best of both worlds, but over the years, he’s proven that he’s not one-dimensional. With The Number 23, it is his first dark movie and in many ways, it is a fine performance, but the story never truly gels together as much as I had hoped.

What I found interested was the “23 Enigma” (as its called) that “all events are connected to the number 23, given enough ingenuity on the part of the interpreter.”* What was the, arguably, best basketball player number? 23, Michael Jordan. September 11, 2001 - 9+11+2+1 = 23. Waco Texas standoff, April 19 - 4+19 = 23. You get the idea... Interestingly, this was also director Joel Schumacher’s 23rd feature-length movie.

So, as far as ideas goes, The Number 23 is right up there with Fight Club and, more recently, The Fountain. However, the execution was severely lacking. Schumacher isn’t entirely to blame, though I’ve seen time and again how much he can royally screw up good material (Batman & Robin), but he isn’t a bad director, just one that doesn’t seem to appreciate good material when he has it.

In The Number 23, Schumacher does something interesting as we get to see into Carrey’s mind reading the book, setting up a film noir vibe, but much, much darker in tone, with Sparrow (Carrey) as a fictional character named Fingerling, a detective with a dark side who investigates a woman known only as “Suicide Blonde”. He also is in a relationship with a seductive woman played by Virginia Madsen, who also plays Carrey’s wife, Agatha, in the “real world”.

Technically speaking, the film is quite good, but the story never quite gets off the ground. Written by first-time writer Fernley Phillips, the movie plugs along at a slow pace and never picks up any sort of momentum. Maybe this is less Phillips problem than Schumacher’s, yet the story goes from a haunting mystery into almost “Scooby-Doo” territory as Sparrow gets his family (wife and son) in on the mystery hunt to find the book’s author. There are still some powerful scenes near the end, but the payoff wasn’t satisfying.

Why someone should see The Number 23 is because, despite its flaws, there’s a fascinating concept stirring at the core.

* Wikipedia - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/23_(numerology)

Unrated Version

Officially, according to the back of the case, the unrated cut runs about 3-minutes longer. I first watched the theatrical version (since that is the one intended by the director), and I painstakingly went back through, chapter by chapter and clocked each one to see which gained time. By my count, chapters 6, 9, 10, 11 and 19 had something added. I watched each one and it seems most were in the alternate world and still a few were a little more steamy.

!! MAJOR SPOILER !!

I do know that chapter 19 shows the actual killing, but oddly enough, the voiceover says the same line twice, once in the extended spot and the other for the original scene. I actually prefer the unrated cut one, in this case...

!! END SPOILER !!



.::SPECIAL FEATURES::.

New Line’s “InfiniFilm” Series usually is well put together between features and audio/video. This entry is good, but not on par with my expectations.

The features are split into two parts:

ALL ACCESS PASS

Director Commentary - As much as I despise Schumacher for what he did to the Batman franchise, he does record good commentaries. Here, he’s cordial and includes bits of trivia about making the movie, meeting with Jim Carrey and other little things. It’s here he admits that this was his 23rd feature film (cue spooky music here). This was a good commentary, though including Carrey would’ve been nice (since he is a believer in 23, naming his production company “JC 23 Entertainment”).

Deleted/Alternate Scenes (14:28) - There are 16 scenes including an alternate ending. The alt. ending in particular isn’t anything too far off from the final cut and the other scenes were fine, but not needed. The other scenes also include a minor sub-plot where Carrey pretends his truck isn’t working so he can spend more time reading the book (and also lies and pleads “emotional distress” after the dog bite to get time off for the same reason). Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear the scenes from the unrated cut were included.

“Making of The Number 23” (22:17) - Goes through the origins of the movie from getting the script from a first-time writer to casting and ideas for transporting the story for the big screen. It also features interviews with the cast and crew including Jim Carrey, Virginia Madsen and Joel Schumacher.

“Creating the World of Fingerling” (11:08) - One of the more interesting featurettes, primarily because it was the most interesting aspect of the actual movies, shows how this world was created. Using green screen and visual effects, Fingerling’s world has that odd, unfamiliar tone yet at the same time, it’s not all that out there either. This was actually quite fascinating to see how those scenes were shot.

BEYOND THE MOVIE

“The 23 Enigma” Documentary (25:00) - Opens with Jim Carrey staring into the camera, rattling off various “23”, followed by interviews with cast and crew (Schumacher, writer Phillips, etc) as well as three mathematic professors. Anyone interested in the background of numbers and the role it plays, might find this interesting. A little dry for my taste, taking me back to my college days and dosing off during key lectures...

How to Find Your Path Numbers - Semi-interactive feature where a numerologist explains the effect numbers plays in our lives and how to calculate our own “life number”. Each number from 1-9 gets an explanation on what it means.

Fact Track Trivia - Available only for the theatrical version, this track just gives basic factoids on various things about the production and/or cast and crew. Unfortunately, it seems I can’t turn it on while the commentary is running, so that is a slight minus.



.::AUDIO & VIDEO::.

IMAGE

The picture looks perfect, but going from a clean, but still dark, reality mixed with Fingerling’s world that is washed out and grisly, it’s hard to tell if there was anything wrong with the transfer. As far as I could tell, no noticeable scratches or dust were found.

I was a little disappointed that New Line didn’t provide a DTS track, but the Dolby Digital 5.1 EX surround sound makes up for it. The movie utilizes some great music, Fabrizia’s entrance with the bonfire in the background for example, but it’s primarily dialogue-centric. A stereo surround sound track is also available for the TV speaker users.



.::OVERALL::.

I think The Number 23 could have been a niche classic but unfortunately, it never quite builds the right momentum to take it across the finish line. Carrey once again gives a good performance, as does Virginia Madsen -- who takes some risks with her Fabrizia alter-ego --, and I must give even Joel Schumacher some credit just for Fingerling’s world. The film has some intriguing ideas that might make watching once worthwhile.