Overview: A man is haunted by a book and becomes obsessed with The Number 23. New Line Cinema; 2007; Rated R; 101 Minutes.
How the Hell (a theory): I can’t figure out how a movie like this gets made, but I have a theory. Two assistants are rushing from different angles toward the same street corner. One carries the script for Fight Club. The other carries the script for Darren Aronofsky’s Pi. Boom! They crash into each and pages fly everywhere. The first assistant, the one in the most hurry, grabs as many pages as he can. He reads them, “Ah, shit!” He says, “Half of these pages are about an unhinged man manifesting a fictional reality to cope and the other half are about a man who becomes unstable through obsession with a number! Screw it, Mr. Schumacher can work with anything!” It’s only halfway back to his boss’s office that he realizes that he’s grabbed… EXACTLY 23 PAGES FROM EACH SCRIPT!
The King of Suck: Joel Schumacher sucks in a variety of ways. He sucks at making movies about the most movie-ready superhero of all (He fucked up two different Batman’s, including Clooney’s turn. Clooney is Bruce Wayne). He ignored legal practicality and made a straight suckfest courtroom drama that needed every second of Matthew McConaughey’s melodramatic closing statement and Sam Jackson’s badass testimony breakdown. He put together an action movie with enough racist subtext (sucktext?) to make Paula Deen say “That ain’t right!” But in his Batman movies he had the spectacle. In A Time to Kill, he had a raging Sam L. And even in Falling Down, it was fun to watch an everyman in office attire lose his shit, even if it resulted in him essentially going hunting for minorities. But in The Number 23… straight suckage.
Let’s Measure This: When they asked Jim Carrey if he could play psychotic, he must have misheard it as “Soundgarden” because he broods around this movie doing his best grunge era Chris Cornell impression. His character’s name is Walter Sparrow. The writer of the book? Topsy Kretts. That’s not a joke. The movie looks like David Fincher lost his best movie sets in a poker game to Ed Wood and no one on Woods’ team knew what lights to leave on and what lights to turn off. The Number 23 comes long after M. Night Shyamalan had us all bracing for shitty twist endings, and yet, it goes there, taking half an hour to set up and explain its legendarily stupid surprise. I’d have preferred an ending where Walter attends a Chicago Bulls game in the mid-nineties and just seizures himself into vegetable status.
Overall: If this movie had been sent to the writers of Mystery Science Theater 3000, they would have returned it with a note that said, “Come on. No thanks. We’re not bullies.”