"Carrey, Don't Lose that Number"
What You Need To Know:
The story in THE NUMBER 23 is understandable and well paced. There is constant action, with many twists that keep viewers guessing. The dark imagery and lighting are interesting, though slightly familiar. The violence is excessive and, at times, gory. The sex is also bordering on excessive and there is some brief, strong foul language. Finally, despite the foreboding darkness that begins to surface in the protagonist's life, he is actually a very loving, dedicated father and husband, and the ending to his story is surprising and redemptive.
(B, C, LLL, VVV, SS, NN, D, M) Light moral worldview with elements of redemption and integrity/honesty related to taking responsibility for one’s actions; 21 obscenities, including 10 uses of the “f” word, and seven light profanities; many acts and depictions of violence, including murder and suicide, although several were only imagined (fantasy), but they are very graphic with immense amounts of blood and some gore; several depicted sexual scenes but nothing graphic or “in your face,” mostly quick glimpses and rapid angle changes, plus Dad sees son making out with girlfriend; other than images of a man without a shirt, partial side nudity of woman with a man holding her breast during one sex scene; no alcohol; light smoking, no other drugs, and miscellaneous immorality includes lying (wife to husband) and Dad keeps Mom from seeing son making out with girlfriend and confronting them.
The life of one man, Walter Sparrow (Jim Carrey) begins to unravel after he is given an obscure book titled “The Number 23.” The book depicts a chilling murder mystery that seems to mirror Walter’s life in unexplainable, dark ways. As he reads the book, he becomes increasingly convinced it is based on his own life. Like the book’s main character, Walter’s obsession with the number 23 starts to consume him, and he begins to realize the book forecasts consequences for his life that are dark and grave.
Not only is the story dark, but so are the cinematography and style of filming. The director, Joel Schumaker, chose a very stylized way of representing most of the movie. Many of the scenes show little or no color, being lost in darkness and shadows just like the psyche of the main character. As Walter reads the book, he imagines himself as the book’s main character, Detective Fingerling (also played by Carrey), and becomes more and more obsessed with the similarities in Fingerling and himself. And, not only similarities in their lives and their pasts, but in a newfound obsession with the number 23.
There is a lot of violence and blood in the movie, but many of the occurrences involve events that are taking place in the book, not in real life. Although very graphic, the audience realizes these events are only being imagined as the plot of the book is being brought to life. Nevertheless, it is not for the weak of heart (or stomach) and definitely for adults only.
Overall, as the story unfolds, it is understandable and well paced. There is constant action, with many pleasant twists that keep the viewer guessing. The reviewer did not feel it was “predictable” and only realized the answer to “who is Fingerling” at the point that the writer and director wanted the audience to do so. The dark imagery and lighting are unique and interesting, although this style seems to be becoming more and more popular.
The movie’s violence is excessive and, at times, gory. The sex is also bordering on excessive but is at least “muted” in the way it is represented. There is really no clearly communicated or represented worldview or agenda, other than the idea of the potential darkness of the human mind and actions that follow. Two of the characters clearly point to the fact that there is no hope for them except for suicide. Yet surprisingly, there is a clearly redemptive point at the end of the movie which is even supported by a Scriptural reference. Also, despite the foreboding darkness that begins to surface in Walter’s life, he is actually a very loving, dedicated father and husband.
Sadly, some opportunities are lost. The writer and director clearly had no agenda in offering other points of view toward what could free the minds and obsessions of the central characters. But, at the place where one character is contemplating suicide, there should have been an opportunity for hope and freedom presented to them. The only real hope in this world, regardless of the situations and circumstances we face, is found in Jesus Christ and in His Word, the Bible. Movies showing that dark, dreary existences are possible should also try to show that situations are not always hopeless and that there always is a way out. That way is through the forgiveness, change and new life available through seeking to know and follow Jesus Christ.